AGRICULTURAL PROTECTION

It is time to phase out sugar in Kenya

In Summary

• The 85 percent protective tariff for sugar will now continue until February 2023

• Kenyans pay around double the world price for the sugar that they consume

A tractor offloads cane at Sony Sugar Company.
SONY: A tractor offloads cane at Sony Sugar Company.
Image: MANUEL ODENY

Kenya has successfully lobbied Comesa for a two-year extension to its tariff protection for sugar farmers. The 85 percent protective tariff was due to expire in February 2021 but will now continue until February 2023.

The sugar industry in Kenya is only viable because it is protected. Kenyan farmers produce sugar at around $500 per tonne yet the average world price is around $180 per tonne.

It is time to look for an alternative to sugar. Government will not be able to block Comesa imports forever and then cheap sugar from South Africa and Mauritius will come flooding in. The consumer will enjoy cheaper sugar but the farmer will suffer.

 

Private sugar companies are running profitably behind these protective tariffs but public sugar companies are losing money. They should receive no more financial support from the Treasury. They should be wound up or privatised as government proposed for four companies in July.

More importantly, farmers should start looking for alternatives to sugar. Western Kenya is already successfully exporting flowers, avocados and other agriculture produce to Europe and the world. It's time to phase out sugar and build on that potential.

Quote of the day: "In the past, people were born royal. Nowadays, royalty comes from what you do."

Gianni Versace
The Italian fashion designer was born on December 2, 1946