While the Kenyan government imports more sugar into the country, state’s Agriculture and Food Authority is blaming traders, particularly the Mumias Sugar Company for the biting shortage of sugar in the country.
The government allows companies that are outside the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) to freely ship in sweeteners in order to make up for a shortage caused by a drop in cane production.
The high demand for sweeteners follows a drought which left 2.7 million people in need of food aid after the country witnessed low rainfall in October and November last year leading to a rise in the prices of basic food commodities including sugar, milk and vegetables.
The Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) who confirmed government’s moves to open gates for sugar barons to mint millions of shilling in the country, said the moves were aimed at neutralising the effects of the failure by Mumias Sugar Company to turn itself around.
Kenya produces 600,000 metric tonnes (MT) of sugar per year against a demand of 870,00 MT. This deficit used to be filled by controlled importation from Comesa countries but it further shortened after a ravaging drought in Africa which created a huge shortfall.
“The sugar shortage is also being experienced in the traditional sugarcane-producing regions within the Comesa block due to drought,” AFA Acting Director General Alfred Busolo told Weekend Business.
“There is also no sugar in the East African Community (EAC) which has caused a hike in prices. The only way we can reduce this is by increasing quantities,” he said.
The situation was worsened after Mumias Sugar Company, which once controlled more than half of the market shut down for months as the company source for a new managing director.
The price of sugar has continued to soar with consumers being restricted to buying just two packets from some supermarkets while some major brands have disappeared from the shelves.
Report from the market shows that two-kilogramme packet of Mumias Sugar company was retailing at Sh390 in major supermarkets, up from Sh330 in February while Sony Sugar was retailing at Sh380 up from Sh300 two months ago.
Before closing down, Mumia was already experiencing an acute shortage of cane which equally led to the company operating at 30 percent of its installed capacity.
The volume of sugarcane crushed by the miller had dropped by 45 percent to 319,746 tonnes from 581,541 tonnes.
Nzoia Sugar Company, which is one of the country’s leading millers is currently milling less than 2,000 tonnes per day against an installed capacity of 3,000 tonnes.
“We wish to assure Kenyans that all efforts are being made to ensure adequate sugar is available and there should be no cause for alarm,” AFA said in a statement on Friday.
The government also noted that some 40,000 MT of the commodity imported from Comesa will arrive in Kenya in two weeks while another 60,000 MT will arrive in the next two months.
This, according to the AFA, will leave a deficit of more than 100,000 MT yet to be imported from non-Comesa countries where production is way cheaper.
The AFA, however, noted that this would not bring the sugar prices down to the original levels. “Sugarcane prices are high all over the region and in Uganda, it is $850 per metric tone,” said Busolo.
“We have enhanced imports and in the next two-three weeks, we shall receive 40,000 tonnes of sugar from the COMESA countries. A further consignment of 60,000 tonnes is expected in the next two months,” the Kenyan authority added.