Sugar imports in January dropped 72 per cent from last year as the regulator moved to control quantities allowed into the country.
A market report by the Sugar Directorate indicates the volume of sugar imported dropped to 9,907 tonnes in the period under review from 35,170 in a similar period last year.
The consignment comprised 1,900 tonnes of refined sugar while the bulk of cargo was 8,007 tonnes of industrial sugar.
“Total sugar imports in February 2018 were 9,907 tonnes compared with 35,170 tonnes imported in the same period last year, a decrease of 72 per cent,” says the Sugar Directorate in a report.
Last week, the directorate said it had subsequently cut the volumes of the sweetener imported to an average of 7,000 tonnes a month from previous highs of 29,000 tonnes to protect local millers who are grappling with huge volumes.
“We are regulating the imports to ensure that the volumes we license in a month are manageable so that we do not affect the local millers,” said Solomon Odera, head of the Directorate.
Normally, Kenya is allowed to import 350,000 tonnes annually from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), which is spread across the year to about 30,000 tonnes monthly.
The country imported over 900,000 tonnes of sugar between May and December last year as Kenya opened a duty-free window to allow traders to ship in the commodity outside Comesa.
The directorate says the number of traders seeking import permit has gone down in recent months because of high volume of sugar in the country.
The Treasury scrapped duty on the commodity last year following a sharp decline in production that saw the price go up to Sh400 for a two-kilo packet.
High quantities of cheap sugar in the local market has seen millers stuck with growing stocks in the struggling factories.
A report from the Sugar Directorate shows the volume held by millers stands at 12,903 tonnes against the required optimum level of 9,000 as at March 22.
Kenya produces about 600,000 tonnes of sugar a year, compared with annual consumption of 870,000 tonnes. The sugar deficit is usually covered by stringently controlled imports from Comesa trade bloc, with the country allowing in a quota of 300,000 tonnes annually.