Close

Sugar imports highest ever, official data shows

Sucks of sugar being offloaded from a container in one of the godown in Mombasa./FILE
Sucks of sugar being offloaded from a container in one of the godown in Mombasa./FILE

Kenya imported more sugar than it produced for the first time in history, a new survey shows.

The 2017 Economic Survey shows that Kenya imported 989,600 tonnes in 2017 against a production of 376,100 tonnes.

Sugar production data for the last five years shows that the country has been producing more than it imported. However, this trend changed last year when imports almost tripled production.

Last year , the area under cane reduced to 191,200 hectares compared to 220,800 hectares in 2016, and by 22,705 hectares since 2013.

Quantity of cane delivered to factories reduced by 33.3 per cent from 7.15 million tonnes registered in 2016 to 4.75 million tonnes produced last year.

The survey attributed the poor performance to prolonged period of weather conditions which were unfavourable for the growth of the cane leading to harvesting of immature cane.

This dip in production comes as Kenya's largest sugar producer Mumias Sugar Company announced early this month that it has temporarily stopped crushing of cane due to shortage of raw materials.

Mumias which has a capacity to crush 8,000 tonnes of cane per day is currently crushing a maximum of 4,000 tonnes per day due to cane shortage.

Managing Director Nashon Aseka told the Star that the company cannot get sufficient sugarcane because of the persistent cane poaching from rival companies.

While at that, the financially struggling miller has had a difficult time to run its operations for the last three years. This is despite the government investing more than Sh 4 billion to try and save it.

In his recent trip to Kakamega County, deputy president William Ruto expressed the governments disappointment in the miller saying that they lack a sound revival plan.

He asked the county government together with the company's management to prepare a revival plan before more cash is pumped into it.

PRIVATIZATION

Apart from Mumias Sugar, five other sugar companies which were once thriving are slowly dying as the privatization commission seeks to privatize them for survival.

The five include Chemelil, Miwani, Muhoroni, Nzoia and Sony Sugar.

Speaking to the Star in a recent interview, the commission's acting chief executive Jacqueline Muindi said that they are looking at August 2018 as the close of sale of the 51 per cent stake in each of the five companies.

The remaining shares will be owned by farmers, and staff while the government will be left with some minority stakes in each of the millers.