Uganda sugar deal in bad taste

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BY MUSALIA MUDAVADI

The report that the government has entered into a trade pact to allow imports of sugar from Uganda while the local sugar industry is struggling is disheartening.

The excuse of balancing trade between our sister countries should not be used to enter into pacts that undermine local production. It amounts to placing a ransom on citizens for the befit of external friends. It is in bad taste.

President Uhuru Kenyatta owes Kenyans full disclosure on the details of the alleged agreement. It cannot be that his Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed says there is no agreement while the President defends the alleged agreement. There is a smoking gun somewhere. Is there a pact or not? This contradiction needs correcting.

Under section 153 of the Constitution, a Cabinet Secretary must make full and open disclosure of any pact entered with a foreign entity to Parliament. This means public disclosure.

Importation of sugar to plug shortfalls is not new. However, any unregulated imports are a blank cheque for Lords of Sugar to distort the market. The lapse between signing a pact and disclosure to Parliament should not be used to benefit dumping of cheap sugar in the market. The already depressed production will suffer irreparable damage.

Kenyans need to know what measures the government has taken to prevent unscrupulous importation of sugar from outside the COMESA protocol and channelling it through Uganda to circumvent the regulations under the Rules of Origin principal. There is a classical example of re-packaging Brazilian sugar and dumping into the Kenyans market.

The sugar industry sector is in need of urgent intervention.

Livelihoods in the western sugar belt are threatened due to unscrupulous practices leading to weakened and collapsing factories like Mumias, Nzoia and Chemelil.

Even with commendable efforts at bail out, the government as the major shareholder in the factories still owes Kenyans an explanation how the situation was left to deteriorate this far.

However, this alleged deal throws away the goodwill the government had earned through the recent injection of a Sh1 billion bailout for Mumias.

This statement does not exclude the need for efficiency and good governance in the management o the sugar industry.

(Mudavadi is the ANC Party Leader)

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