Sugar imports grew 67 per cent last month compared with a corresponding period in 2018 as traders shipped in more of the commodity on account of declining local production.
Latest data by the Sugar Directorate indicates the volumes shipped into the country in January stood at 36,674 tonnes compared with 21,982 tonnes imported in the same period last year.
Local sugar production in January dropped to 46,313 tonnes against 62,819 in the same period last year, leading to increased imports to cover for the shortage.
According to the regulator, the decrease in sugar production was recorded in most of the factories across the country.
Some millers remained closed including Mumias, Olepito and Kwale International Sugar Company in the review period.
“Total sugar production in January 2019 was 46,313 tonnes compared to 62,819 tonnes achieved in the same period last year, representing a drop of 26 per cent,” says the report.
The Common Market for Eastern and Southern African (Comesa) members supplied Kenya with 21,248 tonnes, the East African Community 6,516 tonnes — all from Uganda — while the rest of the world supplied 8,911 tonnes.
The increase in import volumes, however, has had no effect on consumer cost despite a decline of ex-factory price.
A kilo of the commodity is retailing at an average of Sh115 in all major supermarkets.
The average monthly factory price for January stood at Sh4,082 compared to Sh4,271 per 50 kilogramme bag in December last year.
“Generally, ex-factory sugar prices have been on a steady decrease since August 2018 when a high monthly average price of Sh6,024 per bag was attained,” said the directorate.
Sugar imports declined by 71 per cent last year compared with the previous year, following improvement in local production.
Data from the directorate indicated that the volume of the sweetener imported in the country in 2018 declined to 284,169 from 989,619 tonnes the previous year.
Sugar stocks in the review month fell significantly on account of low production by millers.
The directorate said closing stock held by all the factories at the end of January was 6,954 tonnes against 15,463 observed in a corresponding period last year.
Kenya is allowed to import 350,000 tonnes of sugar from Comesa to bridge the annual deficit.