State to import 180,000 tons of sugar

Friday, May 26th, 2023 07:50 | By
High sugar cost adds sour taste to households
Sugar at a local supermarket. PHOTO/Courtesy

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi has authorised the importation of 180,000 metric tonnes of sugar to tame the skyrocketing prices of the commodity in Kenya.

Importers are free to buy the sugar from within or outside the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) region.

Linturi said in the last one month, sugar prices have increased drastically, affecting consumers and eroding their purchasing power.

“By Friday, we will gazette importation of 180,000 metric tonnes to cushion local consumers against the increasing prices. Even though not a good strategy, the current situation has prompted the government to implement a short term measure,” Linturi said at Kilimo House, the ministry’s headquarters in Nairobi.

He made the remarks after witnessing the handing over ceremony between the outgoing Livestock Principal Secretary Harry Kimtai and the incoming one Jonathan Mueke.

Linturi attributed the high retail prices on problems that local sugar millers are going through.

“We cannot expect sugar prices to come down while our mills are operating inefficiently and also when the farmers have not been supported to undertake sustainable production,” he said.

For the last one month, local sugar prices have increased by more than 32 per cent.

A spot check by People Daily has revealed that a 50kg bag of white sugar was being sold for Sh6,500.

“Last month white sugar was Sh350 for a 2kg packet and just when I thought the price could not rise any further it did,” Jonathan Mwila told People Daily in a recent interview.

The price of sugar has risen in the past few days retailing at an average of Sh220 for a 1kg packet and Sh420 for a 2kg packet in most  supermarkets.

At Naivas Supermarket in Nairobi one of the attendants who spoke on anonymity because they are not authorised to talk to the media said the price has been rising for the last two months.

“In the next few days, sugar will probably retail at Sh500 because our stocks are low. We are receiving very small quantities compared to what we ordinarily receive,” he said.

He added that the looming stockout is because millers are not producing adequate volumes to meet consumer requirements.

In contrast, Quick Mart supermarket has neck-high stocks of sugar. Another attendant who sought anonymity said they are fully stocked with stocks to last weeks.

He said some millers were creating an artificial shortage because of the excise duty on sugar proposed in the Financial Bill 2023.

In Eldoret, a survey of local shops shows sugar retailing for an average of Sh230 for a kilogram.

“I asked for sugar nearly a week ago and I have yet to receive it, my supplier keeps telling me to wait. Soon I might run out of the commodity,” said one trader.

Last year the government allowed the importation of duty-free sugar as part of its interventions to bring down the cost of basic commodities. Since the arrival of the commodity, there has not been a noticeable change in the cost.

Tighten belts

The shelf price for a 2-kg packet of Kabras white premium sugar at Joy Supermarket in Kitengela is currently going for Sh420 having increased from Sh340.

In Nairobi, Kabras sugar at Naivas Supermarket Moi Avenue is being sold at Sh189 , but the 2-kg packet was going at Sh299 before the stock ran out.

At Naivas Supermarket in Kisii, the price of a 2-kg packet of sugar was retailing at Sh350 on Monday. Prior to this the commodity in the same package sold at Sh314. This is a 11.4 per cent increase.

Marsabit County’s residents also have to tighten their belts while buying sugar in supermarkets as the commodity rose from Sh170 per kilogram packet to Sh220 for the same. This represents a surge of 17.6 per cent.

The skyrocketing prices have been blamed on local and global shortage of sugarcane and speculation following a proposal in the Finance Bill 2023 to introduce a new tax on sugar.

Various players in the sector are blaming a cane shortage that has forced some millers to import the raw material from Uganda, amid concerns that a proposal in the Finance Bill to introduce an excise duty of Sh5 per kilo of sugar has fueled speculation in the market. The sugar directorate says Kenya’s weekly optimal stock of sugar has dropped by 80 per cent due to diminished production by factories and expensive imports.

More on News