NAIROBI, July 4 – Agriculture Minister William Ruto Friday announced that he would in the next 10 days gazette new rules that stipulate how sugar would be imported.
Coming a day after the minister revoked 55 licenses for sugar importers, Ruto said that in the rules, he would only allow the imports to come in when all the locally produced sugar had been sold out.
The decision, he said, was informed after he discovered that the market is flooded with sugar from illegal sources.
“Many of the consignments that we have discovered come in disguised as bitumen, cement or rice,” he explained.
The tough-talking minister also said his office would no longer be issuing licenses but that the exercise would be carried out by the Kenya Sugar Board (KSB), which would then be able to verify the quantity and quality of sugar to be brought into the country.
“I am no longer going to give anybody any license anymore. I’m suggesting to the sugar barons that they need to look for other areas to do business,” he warned.
Towards this end, Ruto said he would advertise for the KSB Chief Executive Officer’s post in the next three weeks.
“We want the best person that will give us the professional expertise to make sure that we operate above board,” he stated.
The Minister also assured the public that the country had enough stock to last at least five months.
He once again chastised the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) for not being stringent in their inspection of illegal commodities coming into the country.
“We cannot have a situation where the Kenyan taxpayer is not getting revenue from the imports and the farmer cannot sell his produce because some rogue people are bringing in sugar without paying tax,” Ruto stressed.
His decision to criticise the KRA in the media did not augur well with some of his colleagues who thought he should have discussed the issue with his cabinet colleagues first.
“Why are we doing the business of the nation through the media?” Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta posed.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Raila Odinga has ordered the destruction of 47 containers of illegally imported sugar that were impounded at the Mombasa port.
Speaking after chairing a meeting of sugar industry players, Odinga announced that the government would no longer collect tax from impounded commodities.
The Premier further said that both the Kenya Revenue Authority Act and the Sugar Board Act would be amended to institute stringent measures to curb defaulters.
At the same time, Ruto disclosed that senior officials in his Ministry would meet their Finance colleagues next week to push for the allocation of over 4.5 percent of the national budget for the development of agriculture.
Together with four other sectoral ministries of Livestock, Water, Fisheries and Cooperative Development, they would appeal to Treasury to set aside the Sh30 billion annually above their usual allocation for the Agricultural Development Fund, (ADF) which would mainly go to research, training and farm subsidies.
“The same we allocate 2.5 percent of the budget to the Constitutional Development Fund (CDF), the same way we set aside 5 percent to Local Authorities Transfer Fund (LAFT), we should also allocate some money to help the farmer produce more,” he said.
“It is our belief that every Kenyan should afford a meal,” the Minister added.
He said the government would be seeking the support of the donor community to build on the fund.
Ruto revealed that there were plans to establish a partnership between the government and farmers in the purchase of fertilizer, which will see farmers pay only 60 percent of the commodity’s costs.
He also said his ministry was considering expanding the lending base of the Agricultural Finance Corporation (AFC) from the current Sh3.8 to about Sh10 billion. This would provide an avenue for the farmers to access affordable credit facilities.