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Why sugarcane production is on the decline in Kenya

sugarcane farming

Sugarcane production in Kenya declined by 41.2 per cent from 639.7 thousand tonnes in 2016 to 376.1 thousand tonnes in 2017 on account of prolonged drought unfavorable to cane growth that led to harvesting of immature cane according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics 2018 economic survey report.

The report reveals that total area under sugarcane decreased to 191,200 in ha in 2017 compared to 220,800 ha recorded in 2016. The reduction in the area under the cane was attributed to conversion of land under the crop to other crops such as maize, soya beans, cassava and sorghum.

The average sugar yield per ha also reduced from 55.3 tonnes in 2017 from 62.2 tonnes in 2016, a 10.9 per cent cut.

As a result, the quantity of sugarcane delivered to factories by smallholder farmers in the country reduced from 7.2m tonnes in 2016 to 4.8m tonnes in 2017, 33.3 per cent shrinkage.

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To curb the shortage, Kenya imported 989.6 thousand tonnes with most of the imports (83.1 per cent) being consumed directly.

The report further reveals that sugar imports into the country has been increasing steadily since 2013 when the country imported 238.2 thousand tonnes.

A sugarcane plantation in western Kenya. Photo: courtesy

In 2017, there were protests from cane farmers after the Kenya Sugar Directorate reduced the tonnage price of sugarcane to Sh4052 fromSh4320 that was being paid by millers with the Directorate saying the millers could not afford to pay the amount.

Sony Sugar Company however defied the directive from the sugar price regulatory committee and continues to pay its farmers Sh4320 per tonne of sugar delivered to the miller.

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