State agency in spotlight over influx of illegal sugar imports

Monday, April 20th, 2020 00:00 |
President Uhuru Kenyatta with members of the Sugar Taskforce from Bungoma led by Governor Wycliffe Wangamati (right) and Kisumu’s Anyang’ Nyong’o (centre) when the team presented its report in February. Illegal imports have hurt farmers and millers. Photo/PD/FILE

Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) is in the spotlight over failure to report illegal importation of sugar from Uganda before the custom window was opened last Friday.

Unscrupulous importers have been flooding the country with illegal sugar for months without security apparatus and agencies, raising the alarm.

The illegal sugar has already flooded the market in Western and Nyanza regions at Bungoma, Mukenya, Masbrago, New Adatia, Mahdhav, Kiminini, Wananchi Stores, Super Store Minimax, Misikhu, Kitale, Charang’any and Jaralam.

Revelations of the imports have sparked uproar among sugarcane stakeholders, including farmers, millers, saying the illegal importation would kill local production and collapse the economy which is already hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Negative impact

Bungoma Governor Wycliffe Wangamati, who is a member of the National Sugar Task Force, said the illegal imports coupled with opening of the importation window will have a negative impact on farmers’ income as prices will fall.

“This simply means that local farmers will lose significantly. We need to engage the Agriculture Cabinet Secretary over this crisis,” said Wangamati.

Nzoia Sugar Company chairman Joash Wamang’oli censured the importers of  sugar for killing local industries.

“ We won’t have money to pay farmers. We are calling upon AFA to protect farmers. The sugar report by the Sugar Task Force formed by President Uhuru Kenyatta last year should be implemented,” he said.

Kenya National Alliance of Sugarcane Farmers through chairman Saulo Busolo said the industry is on the brink  of collapse because of the effects of coronavirus.

“The effects of the pandemic will completely collapse the sugar sector. Why then can’t the government protect its very own farmers and the local industries?”he asked.

He also appealed to the government to consider giving cane farmers a stimulus package to cushion them from the effects of the pandemic.

Huge losses

Farmers from Nzoia, Butali, and West Kenya Sugar zones have complained that unscrupulous importers have made it a habit of flooding sugar since the government has failed to act.

“Farmers in the region have been registering huge losses but their cries have been ignored over time, it is a high time that the government act,” said Busolo.

Wangamati said the “selfish” importers are doing farmers a great disservice.

“If you bring in sugar from elsewhere, you should know that you’re paying farmers from Uganda and not Kenya.

Those farmers are the ones benefitting not our farmers. Our Mills are crushing meaning that farmers will suffer. We lack mechanism to protect local sugarcane farmers,” said Wangamati.

The Sugar Taskforce report, presented to President Uhuru Kenyatta in February, made a raft of recommendations, including payment of farmers who deliver cane to millers in seven days.

But some farmers accused the government of attempting to rubber-stamp “unrealistic and impractical” decisions through the report.

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