'Heartless' sugar smugglers killing our local industries, cane farmers decry

Smuggled sugar repackaged and released to local market before safety is determined

In Summary

• The Kenya Association Sugar and Allied Product (Kasap) national secretary Peter Odima observed smugglers are having a field day in border towns.

• According to Mr Odima, there has been an extreme influx of sugar into Kenya from neighbouring countries in the last three months.

A tractor arranges sugarcane stalks at an open yard within the Mumias Sugar Factory in western Kenya on February 24, 2015.
A tractor arranges sugarcane stalks at an open yard within the Mumias Sugar Factory in western Kenya on February 24, 2015.
Image: REUTERS

Sugarcane farmers from Western have asked the government to protect the local sugar millers from unfair competition by smugglers.

At a media briefing, Monday in Nambale, Busia county, the cane farmers from Busia, Kakamega, Bungoma and Trans Nzoia counties warned that rampant smuggling and importation of cheap sugar is bound to affect the local sugar industry severely.

The Kenya Association Sugar and Allied Product (Kasap) national secretary Peter Odima observed smugglers are having a field day in border towns.

According to Odima, there has been an influx of sugar into Kenya from neighbouring countries for the last three months.

The sugar is said to be coming through border counties including Marsabit, Mandera, Busia, Bungoma, Trans Nzoia, Kajiado, Narok, Garissa, Migori, Kwale and Port of Mombasa.

The sugar is then repackaged and released to the local market before its safety is determined by government agencies particularly the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs).

“We are privy to the information as sugarcane farmers that some people have stored a lot of sugar waiting to release during this Christmas season to make some money quickly,” said Odima.

“We are urging the national government that just like it has heightened security against threats from terrorists to also direct same energy to the smugglers who want to kill our sugar industry.”

He challenged the ministry of Agriculture led by Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya to firm against the smuggling of sugar.

“If the government is sensitive to the plight of the farmers and our sugar factories, then let us some actions targeting both importation and smuggling of cheap sugar,” said Odima.

SEIZURES

More than 5,000 bags of smuggling sugar have been seized in different parts of the country for the past two months latest being the confiscation of 2.5 tonnes of sugar in Busia town by police officers.

The sugar valued at Sh4.5million and suspected to have come from across the border was seized in Marachi Estate in Busia town while being parked into four Toyota Wish vehicles during a crackdown against illegal sugar.

Besides Busia, other counties believed to be entry points for the cheap sugar are Mandera, Bungoma, Kajiado, Port of Mombasa and Kwale.

Other counties include Trans Nzoia, Narok, Garissa and Marsabit where sugar from Dobley and Liboi in Somali is sneaked through.

In Busia, many shops are said to be selling sugar from Uganda and residents have reportedly bought it due to its cheapness and shunning the locally manufactured sweetener.

Boniface Manda petitioned the CS Munya to come out and speak loud against sugar the current rampant smuggling of sugar.

“Our hope is that the Agriculture CS will find it prudent and at least come out to condemn smugglers as he did in July 2020 when banned the importation of both sugarcane and sugar from outside the country,” said Manda.

According to him, the smugglers are after killing the local sugar industry and that is why they are going for cheap sugar from Kenya’s neighbours.

“The government is so silent on sugar smuggling something that we are concerned about as sugarcane farmers,” said Manda.

Fenzio Okwara said the government was applying double standards.

“While there is an effort to stabilize the struggling State-owned mills, the same government is silent on sugar importation, where will those factories sell their products if the market is flooded with cheap sugar whose source only smugglers know,” said Okwara.

Kenyan delegation delayed the visit to Kampala in Uganda to verify claims that sugar imported from the land-locked country come from third-party states until next month.

Edited by D Tarus