Sugar imports in the first four months of the year rose 36 per cent compared with the same period last year as the government issued more licences to help bridge a deficit following low local supply.
A report by the Sugar Directorate indicates the volume of imported sugar grew from 97,320 tonnes early last year to 131,846 tonnes from January to April this year.
Kenya imported the sugar from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) free trade bloc, the East African Community (EAC), and other countries.
“Sugar imports in April comprised 14,742 tonnes table and 10,256 refined (industrial), Comesa gave 1,500 tonnes while EAC provided 2,550 tonnes, non-Comesa countries gave 6,332 tonnes,” says the report.
The directorate notes that only one tonne of sugar was exported in April compared with 18 tonnes in the same period the previous year.
“Overall sugar exported in January to April 2017 was 7.9 tonnes against 76 tonnes in the same period last year,” says the report.
It notes that Madagascar, Mauritius, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Swaziland were the main sources of table sugar imports.
Kenya produces 600,000 tonnes of sugar annually and relies on imports to meet growing demand that currently stands at 900,000 tonnes. The country is allowed to bring in 300,000 tonnes of taxless sugar every year from Comesa states.
The directorate says in the period January to April 2017, production of the commodity dropped to 172,722 tonnes compared to 238,872 tonnes achieved in the same period last year.
The directorate notes that sugar production has been on a decreasing trend in the last four months, attributing the decline to the prevailing cane shortage in most growing zones.
Increased imports have, however, not reduced high cost of sugar in the country with the directorate blaming it to hoarding by traders.
Sugar Directorate and the ministry of Agriculture say a kilogramme of the sweetener should be retailing at a maximum of Sh120. It is selling at an average of Sh180 in most retail shops.
“We suspect that sugar is being held by retailers and wholesalers and this is what has frustrated our efforts of achieving the Sh120 that a kilo of the commodity should be retailing at,” said head of the Directorate Solomon Odera.