MOMBASA, Kenya, Jun 27 – 17 warehouses in the coastal regions suspected to be holding contraband sugar have been closed.
Coast Region Director of Criminal Investigation Joseph Nganga says the go-downs are holding thousands of bags of sugar that is subject to investigation amidst a national crackdown on contraband sugar suspected to be contaminated with mercury and copper.
Nganga was speaking on Wednesday to the joint parliamentary committee on Trade and Agriculture probing the entry of contraband sugar in the market through the Port of Mombasa.
The legislators are expected to conduct the field inspections in Mombasa, Nakuru and Webuye as they seek to fully understand how the contaminated commodity might have got into the market.
The coastal tour revealed that over one million tonnes of sugar valued at Sh59 billion was imported in to the country last year.
This is an increase of over 211 percent compared to 2016, in which only 341,444 metric tonnes of sugar were imported.
Kenya Revenue Authority Southern Region Commissioner Nicholas Kinoti told the parliamentarians that sugar imports rose to 1,060, 630 metric tonnes after the Government issued a gazette notice allowing individuals to import to mitigate an expected shortage of the commodity.
The MPs were told contamination could have occurred during the handling of the import at the port of Mombasa or at the Container Freight Stations.
The MPs from the two committees, which are co-chaired by Kanini Kega (Trade) and Adan Hajj (Agriculture) were also told that another vessel with over 40,000 tonnes of sugar was not allowed into the country.
Port Health officer, Mumba Tsuma, who appeared before the committee, said that he had raised alarm last year August over the handling of sugar at the port.
Tsuma said a letter sent to all importers questioned why sugar in bulk was leaving the port of Mombasa before being repackaged.
It is standard practice that bulk imported sugar has to be packaged at the port of origin or at the port of destination due to human health and safety.
KPA General Manager, Operations, William Ruto, however, said the sole mandate of KPA is to handle cargo and issues of safety and health are handled by other government agencies.
“Our role is to handle imports and exports. We only clear cargo from the port of Mombasa after KEBS, KRA and other government agencies have given the cargo a clean bill of health,” said Ruto.