, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 16 – The Central Organization for Trade Unions (COTU) on Sunday called for the cancellation of a sugar trade pact signed by President Uhuru Kenyatta with his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni.
In a statement, Kenya Union of Sugar Plantation Workers General Secretary Francis Wangara noted that if the President fails to withdraw the agreement, they will be forced to take unspecified action until he acts.
“We urge the president to reject that deal and for other trade options. Any trade agreement should be one that benefit the economy, must be promoting the industry that we already have, must be protecting the jobs of the works we represent. There is no country that has grown barely because of imports, countries grow because of industrialization,” he stated.
The planters want the multi-billion-shilling deal signed between Kenya and Uganda to allow cheaper Ugandan sugar into the Kenyan market to be made public.
The Union said the Jubilee Coalition administration must come clean on the deals signed and publish them to give Kenyans confidence that the deals were made and signed lawfully and for the benefit of Kenyans.
The Union leader accused powerful sugar cartels in Kenya of using import controls to defeat competition, a situation that has kept consumer prices artificially high in the region’s biggest market.
The union cautioned that the deal which was made by President Kenyatta during his recent visit in Uganda would adversely affect sugar farmers and those who are employed in the sector in Kenya.
“As workers, we now advise the President that this deal will not only hurt the economy but will also facilitate the death of our local sugar industries as it happened to our once viable textile and leather Industries which collapsed due to importing of cheap second hand clothes and shoes,” Wangara said.
They said the pact to import cheap sugar flies in the face of the President’s pledge to restore Mumias Sugar Company to profitability. The union now says the government’s ambitious bail-out programme seems to be artificial and unconvincing.
President Kenyatta signed with his Ugandan counterpart in Kampala also clears the way for Kenyan traders to export beef to Uganda under similar terms, deepening the commercial ties between Kampala and East Africa’s largest economy.
The agreements were signed during Kenyatta’s three-day visit to Kampala where he held bilateral meetings with his host Museveni and addressed the Ugandan parliament.
According to the Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Authority (AFFA), Uganda produces about 465,000 tonnes of sugar against a consumption of 320,000 tonnes, leaving it with a 145,000-tonne surplus. Kenya produces 650,000 tonnes of sugar against a demand of 860,000 tonnes, leaving a 210,000-tonne deficit that is met through imports,
Kenyan authorities have in the past couple of years capped sugar imports at 300,000 tonnes to protect local millers.