Sugar cane fields on a Tongaat Hulett farm in Shongweni
NAIROBI – Kenya National Federation of Sugarcane Farmers (KNFSF) on Thursday decried the influx of cheap sugar imports into the country. Ibrahim Juma, chairman of KNFSF told a media briefing in Nairobi that local farmers are unable to compete with foreign sugar due to their high cost of inputs. 

"We are therefore calling for strict control of imports in order to protect the local sugar sector," Juma said. According to government data, Kenya has an annual sugar production of 450,000 tonnes against a demand estimated at 850,000 tonnes. 

The deficit is usually bridged through duty-free imports from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) as well as the East African Community (EAC) bloc. 

Juma said that the sugar sector needs to be safeguarded from collapse because it is a source of livelihood of over 460,000 farmers mostly in western Kenya. He noted that the number of farmers in the sugar sector has been on the decline since the liberalization of the industry. 

The chairman revealed that the five state-owned sugar millers are also facing financial distress and are therefore unable to produce sugar at competitive prices or pay farmers on time.

"The private millers are profitable but are not able to produce enough sugar to satisfy local demand," he added. Juma called for the implementation of rules and regulations in the sugar sector that will enable sugarcane farmers to produce high-quality sugar at competitive costs. 
He added that the adoption of modern sugar varieties by farmers that are high yielding and have a shorter maturity period has also been slow. 

XINHUA