Kenya turns to EAC for sugar

September 15, 2009
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, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 15 – The government has written to the East African Community (EAC) requesting permission to import 60, 000 Metric Tonnes (MT) of sugar from non-COMESA countries in the next six months, Agriculture Minister William Ruto has said.

Mr Ruto told Parliament on Tuesday that if the high prices of the commodity continue to bite, the government would be forced to source for sugar outside the Comesa region which is a net importer.

“We have record high prices of sugar that are not acceptable. We are looking at different avenues of bringing in additional sugar because unless we have a structured arrangement, the consumers will continue to hurt,” he said.

He said the skyrocketing prices of sugar which is averaging Sh105 per kilo left the government with the option of either effecting price controls or importing more.

Regulating prices is not an alternative that the government is willing to take which leaves the latter as the only solution. Industry players have forecasted that the price of sugar will remain high in the next one-and-a-half years owing to the deficit in the world market.

Mr Ruto said the ministry would carry out an auction next week to look for exporters who’ll bring in sugar to meet the 220, 000MT shortfall in the country.

Of the 20 companies that have been given the rights to import sugar, only five have paid up and have brought in 4,500 MT which is still at the Port of Mombasa.

“We are expecting another 40,000MT but we are carrying out another auction on Monday to get more players who have sugar to bring into the country,” he added.

Meanwhile, Mr Ruto said the simultaneous closure of sugar factories for the annual maintenance would be re-looked to curb the recurrence of the commodity’s shortages that are experienced during the exercise.

The five weeks closure of their factories has been cited as one of the reasons that cause the commodity’s scarcity every year.

Although production for September is expected to be at 40, 000 MT, that of next month is expected to be more than 54,000 MT as factories are said to have improved their efficiency after maintenance.

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