NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 19 – West Kenya Sugar Company has refuted claims of importing contraband sugar found to be contaminated with copper and mercury.
In a statement dispatched to newsrooms Tuesday, the firm, however, stated that it had imported sugar in bulk after an extended drought last year which led to acute shortage of the product, prompting the government to grant a four-month duty exemption for sugar imports in May via gazette notice number 4356.
According to West Kenya, the bulk sugar was labelled ‘not for sale’ primarily because the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) had imposed guidelines requiring the manufacturer to refine the imported sugar before releasing it to the market.
“In view of the exceptionally reduced supply of cane available from our preferred local farmers caused by that drought, West Kenya Sugar Company Limited along with several other companies, consequently applied for and were granted a licence to import bulk brown sugar by the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA),” the cane miller stated.
The company denied claims that its sugar fell short of required standards saying the imported supply was subjected to laboratory tests before being cleared for sale.
“The bulk brown sugar that we imported is placed in quality-controlled, white woven bags which have an inner water-resistant liner. The bags are marked ‘not for sale’ as that sugar requires further processing to our exacting standards before it is released to the consumer market,” Managing Director Tejveer Rai explained.
“The final product was tested in our laboratories to ensure that it meets the KEBS table sugar quality standards and our own Kabras Sugar brand quality standards. West Kenya Sugar Company Limited operates an advanced quality testing laboratory to ensure the integrity of all our genuine products,” he added.
Rai also denied claims that the company may have evaded regulators while importing sugar saying a Pre-Export Verification of Conformity (PVoC) certification was obtained from KEBS.
Further, the company stated that all requisite taxes were paid to the Kenya Revenue Authority. West Sugar said it was not the proprietor of the sugar seized by authorities in Nairobi’s Eastleigh on June 5.
Reports of contraband sugar gained prominence last week when Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi said that laboratory tests by a government chemist had revealed the presence of elements of copper and mercury in sugar confiscated by the police from a warehouse in Ruiru.
“I am not under any illusion that we engaged in a very serious war. A war that could mean anything; it could mean even the lives of these officers and some of us,” Matiangi said when Directorate of Criminal Investigations boss George Kinoti displayed tones of the sugar imported illegally from Brazil on Wednesday last week.
A total of 1,365 bags of sugar had been seized from the Ruiru warehouse alone with police indicating that a number of suspects were being processed for arraignment in court.
Mercury, according to the World Health Organization has far-reach health effects owing to its corrosive nature.
The ingestion of mercury could cause kidney toxicity that can ultimately lead to kidney failure.
In a separate case of illicit trade, at least 25 suspects are being held by authorities in connection with the importation of counterfeits and concealed goods valued at Sh1.2 billion.
The revelation was made by Deputy Head of Public Service Wanyama Musiambo who told reporters on Monday that investigations are underway to establish the owners of some 89 forty-feet containers with products that are either counterfeits or substandard.
The containers being held at the Nairobi Inland Container Depot (ICD) also comprised of items concealed for purposes of tax evasion, according to Musiambo.
“The persons manning the warehouses from where counterfeits are confiscated may not necessarily be the owners although they could be part of the syndicate. We want to establish the owners,” he said adding that more suspects will be arraigned in court.