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New sugar board pledges reforms

NAIROBI, July 30 – The newly appointed Kenya Sugar Board has pledged to champion a reform agenda that would ensure farmers benefit from their produce.

Incoming Chairman Zachary Okoth Obado vowed on Wednesday to implement strategies that would increase profitability in sugar farming.

“Our factories were really crying that they were crushing and just piling up stock, but we took a very decisive step and stopped imports and exports, and since that time our factories have done better,” said Okoth.

Kenya\’s commitment to sugar sector reforms is set to come under the spotlight as the new team takes charge at the Kenya Sugar Board (KSB), following its appointment by Agriculture Minister William Ruto last month.

Members include Okoth, his predecessor Saulo Busolo, David Kodongo, Ewing Mwombe and Nicholas Oricho to represent farmers, while Himesh Patel and Evans Kidero will represent the sugar millers.

The board is expected to guide the sub-sector through a critical period of reform in preparation for the full liberalisation of the sugar market in 2012.

It is also charged with steering sectoral reforms that began three months ago to increase competitiveness.

In November last year, Kenya successfully negotiated a final four-year preferential trade arrangement with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) to delay duty-free sugar imports.

Kenya imports 200,000 tonnes of duty-free sugar from COMESA annually with any extra consignments attracting a 110 percent duty, as part of quota and tariff bands listed under preferential safeguards.

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But under the new deal, Kenya agreed to allow into its local market some 220,000 tonnes duty-free sugar from the regional bloc beginning March 2008, with any consignments above this quota attracting an automatic duty of 100 percent.

This quota of duty-free imports is expected to rise by a margin of 40,000 tonnes in the next three years, before it is eliminated in 2012.


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