•The extension offers relief to Kenyan millers and farmers who face competition from cheap imports.
•The two-years extension begins in March 2021 and will be in place until February 2023.
Kenya 's sugar sector has received a further two year protection from sugar imports from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).
The safeguard set to expire in February 2021, now runs to February 2023. It kicks off in March next year.
The extension was granted at the 41st COMESA Council of Ministers meeting, and offers relief to Kenyan millers and farmers who face competition from cheap imports.
Kenya had made a presentation of the sugar safeguard implementation progress through the COMESA technical committees and requested for a two years extension after the current one lapses.
The delegation to the meeting was led by Industry, Trade and Cooperatives PS Ambassador Johnson Weru.
The extension however comes with conditions among them being the requirement to share the modalities it (Kenya) used in calculating the projected sugar deficit with other member states by November 30 2020.
In its decision, the Council also urged Kenya to give priority to COMESA originating sugar noting that the region produces enough to meet the deficit.
“The country will be allowed flexibility on the sugar safeguard allocated quota implementation during importation from COMESA Member States,” a statement released by COMESA over the weekend reads.
Kenya informed the meeting that all its sugar factories are currently in production hence it expects an increase in available sugar for domestic consumption.
The country is expected to provide a detailed roadmap on how to enhance the sugar sector competitiveness during the extended safeguard period and ensure the import permit issuance process is transparent, fast and efficient.
It is also required to provide the projected deficit in January of each year based on production and consumption data from ISO (International Standardisation Organisation).
The council also urged Kenya to disaggregate the World Customs Organisation Harmonised System (HS Codes) for refined white sugar and mill white or brown sugar.
“The safeguard should only be applicable to mill white or brown sugar,” the Council of Ministers notes.
The council also directed that any unavoidable full or partial suspension of COMESA quotas or of the East African Community import tariff for sugar, or interruption of preferential access established under this agreement, be preceded by prior consultation with affected parties.
“This should be done through the Kenya Safeguard Sub-Committee and includes a reasonable notice period of at least three months,” it said.
Kenya has since committed to honour all the quota allocations.
Local millers, mainly state owned have been struggling to remain afloat amid competition from cheap imports.
In July, the government asked for bids to lease Chemelil, Miwani, Muhoroni, Nzoia and South Nyanza sugar companies, a move that was welcomed by the private sector.
Sugar imports in the first half of the year rose 19 per cent compared to a similar period last year, despite local factories increasing output.
According to the Sugar Directorate, imports between January and June stood at 237,581 tonnes compared to 200,442 tonnes imported in the same period last year.
The higher imports came despite local production recording a 22 per cent increase, attributed to improvement in sugarcane supply to private millers.
During the six months, the country imported 174,712 tonnes of table sugar while industrial /refined sugar was at 62,869 tonnes.
Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) countries supplied Kenya with 140,230 tonnes while the East African Community brought in 25,159 tonnes with the rest being imports from the rest of the World.