• The farmers said that the porous entry points has been the source of pain and agony for thousands of cane growers.
Seize illegal sugar imports by enforcing tough screening at the border points, Sugarcane farmers have called on the government.
The farmers noted that illegal imports of sugar was becoming a crisis in the country despite the fact that Kenya has ratified a continental free trade area agreement that allows free movement of goods between African States.
Kenya National Alliance of Sugarcane Farmers Organization (KNASFO) Michael Arum called on Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya to introduce more strict regulations to safeguard Kenyan farmers from exploitation by unscrupulous individuals.
He noted that the porous entry points has been the source of pain and agony for thousands of cane growers.
Arum noted that this has forced farmers to languish in poverty due to the dumping of cheap imports from non-Comesa member states.
“The sugar sector is struggling to make a comeback after years of neglect and it’s unfortunate that illegal importation continues to hurt the sector,”he said.
He added “currently the millers remain stranded with bags of sugar in their warehouses as cheap imports from as far as Brazil, Australia and Indonesia find their way in the country disguised as sugar from Comesa States”.
Moses Sikuta, a farmer from Bungoma South blamed the sugar regulator, Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) for failing to reign in on cartels who have taken over the industry.
Another farmer from Korongoi, Kericho county Andrew Bett noted that the high cost of production had made it difficult for locals to compete.
Bett noted that it was unfortunate that some millers were importing sugarcane from the neighbouring Uganda while mature canes are rotting in the farms.
In April, The Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) assured farmers from the Western sugar belt that it will soon get to the bottom of the illegal sugar importation into the region.
AFA Director General Anthony Muriithi said they are in consultation with Uganda authorities over the matter that spells death sentence to the local sugar industry.
Muriithi’s response came on the backdrop of protests from farmers and Western leaders who had demanded action against individuals involved in the illicit trade at the expense of farmers.
According to the stakeholders, some unscrupulous individuals and traders flooded the region with illegal imports, days before the custom window was opened.
Western sugar belt joined farmers in condemning illegal importation of sugar and demanded that President Uhuru Kenyatta intervene to save the sector.
The local leaders drawn from Kakamega County Assembly, led by Deputy Speaker Leonard Kasaya said the region has the potential of producing enough sugar for local consumption terming the move to import the sweetener as ill-advised.
They noted the genesis of problems facing local sugar industries in the region could be traced to the illegal importation of sugar from Uganda.
The AFA boss on his part explained that restrictions put in place to contain the spread of coronavirus in the country hindered the Authority’s surveillance of the border and the region.
He however promised to verify if the claims are true or not.
“We have a surveillance team that usually monitors the imports but as we talk they have not gone to the ground because of the current measures put by the government, he said.
He added that "We are trying to put in place necessary logistics so that we are able to send the team to assess whether it is something legal or it is within the import quota."