NAIROBI, September 5 – The local sugar industry now has a committee to facilitate and monitor the implementation of the Sugar safeguard arrangements.
This follows a decision by the Council of Ministers from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) to extend the time for the local industry to execute reforms in the sector.
In a gazette notice, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade, Uhuru Kenyatta has charged the 11-member committee with building stakeholder consensus on the various aspects of sugar imports within the COMESA framework and ensuring the conclusion of appropriate government policies and legislation relating to the sugar sector.
The Sugar Safeguards Committee is also charged with the scrutinizing and the execution of the Industry Strategic Plan and ensuring the harmonization of the individual factory strategic plans to that of the overall industry.
The COMESA safeguards period was extended to 2012 late last year to give the local industry time to cut costs and streamline operations so as to be able to compete with duty free foreign sugar from the region.
The committee comprises of members from the Office of the Prime Minister and Ministry of Trade, together with the Agriculture and Industrialization Ministries.
Other members are drawn from the Kenya Sugar Board, Kenya Sugar Millers and Kenya Sugarcane Growers Associations, the Bureau of Standards, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Association of Manufacturers.
Early last month, Agriculture Minister William Ruto wanted to give sugar growers more protection a move that triggered threats from the whole deal on extended trade safeguards could be withdrawn.
In COMESA’s view, the directive the Minister issued on August 6 is in contravention of the agreement for an extension of the safeguard measures last year.
The notice proposes a ban on sugar exports and the establishment of an import licence auctioning system as the means through which Kenya would bring in the duty free sugar from COMESA.
It is estimated that the annual production of sugar in the country is 500,000 tonnes against a demand of 700,000 tonnes, which leaves a deficit of up to 200,000 tonnes.
This is the deficit that the COMESA window has been servicing and the amount of duty free sugar entering the local market is expected to increase by 40,000 tonnes annually starting this year.