Kenya’s sugar industry will continue to enjoy protection from influx of cheap sugar imports from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa after winning a bid to extend sugar safeguards for two more years to February 2021.
Under the COMESA treaty, safeguard measures can be applied to domestic industries to protect them against international competition until they become mature and competitive.
Kenya exhausted the allowable period for the Sugar safeguards in 2012, and was given two more years in 2016 which ended in February 2018.
Kenya sought an extension for the bid during this year’s COMESA meeting in Lusaka, Zambia.
Having secured an extension bid, safeguards will run up to February 2021 after expiring in February 2019.
Foreign Affairs Chief Administrative Secretary Ababu Namwambwa says “It is very good for Kenya as this ring fences our sugar sub-sector from indiscriminate sugar dumping, but we must make good use of this crucial extension so that we do not seek another one in 2021.We must push forward with the privatization agenda, power co-generation and bio-fuel production, revision of sugar pricing policies and step up research and development’’.
Kenya produces about 600,000 tonnes of sugar a year against an annual consumption of 870,000 tonnes, where the deficit is covered by controlled imports from the COMESA.
Plans by the government to privatize state owned millers, to introduce an early maturing cane, pay its farmers based on sucrose content in their cane as opposed to the current weight-based payments and address high cost of production was rejected by the Council of Governors who want the assets to be handed over to the counties.
Kenya is currently grappling with the challenge of controlling importation of cheap sugar, some of which the government has said is contaminated and is not fit for human consumption.
Several tonnes of such sugar have been impounded in a crack-down that began two months ago.