Local millers are bracing for heightened competition from cheaper Uganda sugar following bilateral talks aimed at tripling the import quantities of the sweetener from the neighbouring state.
The decision to increase imports from Uganda had been reached in March following the meeting between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni. However, the plans did not take off as planned following delays in issuing the licences.
The two leaders met again late last month on the sidelines of TICAD conference in Japan where Mr Kenyatta agreed to follow up on the matter to ensure the trade deal is effected.
Kenya currently imports 30,000 tonnes of sugar from Uganda annually, but Kampala wants to enhance the volumes to 90,000 tonnes following surplus in production. Uganda is also seeking to export sugar cane.
“Ugandans have grown too much sugar cane, they want to export sugar cane to Kenya. We don't allow export of unprocessed sugar cane but because of the quantity, they were saying that we suspend the ban of export of raw sugar cane and allow Kenyan factories which are willing, to buy it,” said Mr Museveni.
Millers and farmers have always been opposed to imports from Uganda saying they make them uncompetitive.
Whereas Kenya is allowed to import sugar from Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), of which Uganda is a member, imports of cheap commodity from this landlocked country has been a political issue that has seen leaders cite it as a reason for ailing factories.
The trade arrangement will further be complicated by Uganda’s request to export raw material to Kenya, a move that will likely anger local cane farmers.