Uganda accused of sneaking sugar from Brazil into Kenya

Thursday, April 23rd, 2020 00:00 |
Harvesting time at Chemelil Sugar Factory last year. Photo/PD/FILE

Uganda is on the spot for allegedly facilitating illegal exportation of  sugar to Kenya against the Rules of Origin and a treaty by Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) member countries.

Western Kenya millers and farmers, with the backing of their leaders, have complained that sugar was imported into Uganda from Brazil and later sneaked into  Kenya by unscrupulous importers.

Lugari lawmaker Ayub Savula described the circumstances under which sugar was being imported as abuse of the Rules of Origin because “it’s against Comesa treaty for neighbouring countries to dump sugar from non-member states.

“The government should step in and block the importation of sugar from Uganda. It’s illegal that they are importing the commodity from Brazil and cleverly sneaking it into the country.

This has led to sugar glut and thereby occasioning drop of sugar prices and the primary producers have been hurt,” Savula said.

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

Corona advantage

Yesterday, Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) Director General Anthony Muriithi said they have already engaged their Ugandan counterparts over the matter as part of measures to cushion the country’s economy from exploitation.

Mureithi said that unscrupulous businessmen may have taken advantage of the coronavirus pandemic disruption to  smuggle sugar into the country. 

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

Kakamega County Deputy Speaker Leonard Kasaya said most of the industries in the region had been affected by the illegal importation of cheap sugar from Uganda, placing them at the risk of collapse.

According to Kasaya local sugar companies owe farmers huge debts and are unable to settle them because their product is lying in stores while cheap sugar imports have flooded the market.

“Some of the sugar is being repackaged and rebranded as local sugar,” Kasaya said yesterday.

The leaders said the sugar belt has a capacity to produce enough sugar for the country, while warning that cheap imports from neighbouring countries will kill the local industry.

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.

The taskforce that was formed by President Uhuru Kenyatta, under the chairmanship of Bungoma Governor Wycliffe Wangamati to look into the sugar crisis in the country recommended that local millers be barred from importing sugar from Comesa members.

Wangamati 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.

The sugar report pointed out that a sizable amount of unlicensed sugar is smuggled into the country through the cracks porous borders.

Wangamati called on Agriculture CS Peter Munya to intervene so as to cushion farmers from incurring losses.

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.

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