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Kenya government plans to revive local sugar industries in bid to save ailing sector


The Kenyan government last week announced plans to revive the local public sugar industries at a time the quantity of cane delivered to factories reduced by 33.3 per cent from 7.2m tonnes in 2016 to 4.8m tonnes in 2017 according to the 2018 economic survey report released by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics in April.

In this, the ministry of agriculture will write off debts accrued by the sugar millers in addition to re-introducing the sugar development levy for cane research and infrastructural development.

Some of the local sugar millers include Mumias, West Kenya, Chemelil, Muhoroni and Kibos.

In May, Muhoroni Sugar factory was closed down due to tax arrears amounting to Sh861m thus affecting 23,000 farmers who were supplying cane to the miller.


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Butali Sugar Mills Ltd in Kakamega County. Photo: Courtesy

The national and county governments will work hand in hand with the Privatization Commission to develop a road map to guide cane development to benefit farmers.

The area under cane also reduced to 191.2 thousand hectares last year compared to 220.8 thousand hectares in 2016.

The reduction in cane area last year was attributable to conversion of some area under cane to other crops such as maize, soya beans and groundnuts.

This was on account of prolonged dry weather conditions which were unfavourable for the growth of cane leading to harvesting of immature cane. As a result, the average sugarcane yield reduced to 55.3 tonnes per hectare in 2017 compared to 62.2 tonnes per hectare in 2016, representing a decrease of 10.9 per cent.

The total domestic sugar production declined by 41.2 per cent from 639.7 thousand tonnes in 2016 to 376.1 thousand tonnes in 2017. A total of 989.6 thousand tonnes of sugar was imported in 2017 to bridge the deficit occasioned by the low production during the year. Most of the sugar imports were meant for final consumption at 83.1 per cent of total sugar imports.

However, sugar imports in the first five months this year have dropped by an average of 50 per cent from 183,556 tonnes in the similar period in 2017 to 80,956 tonnes according to the Sugar Directorate.

Over 500,000 tonnes of contraband sugar have so far been confiscated in the ongoing crackdown on sale of contaminated sugar in the market.

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