Sugar in Kenya has turned into a political weapon and less of a traded commodity and the pinch could be felt far away in neighbouring countries.
As the sugar politics take a new dimension, the Kenyan government has written to the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) seeking protection against importation of cheap sugar from the region.
The Kenyan government argues that this sugar crisis is caused by importation of large amounts of duty-free sugar from non-Comesa member states.
However, Kenya ratified a continental free trade area agreement that allows free movement of goods between African States.
Between May and December last year Kenya imported 981,000 tonnes of sugar following the opening of the duty-free window to bridge the local deficit.
It has now emerged that a technical team from the Sugar Directorate on Wednesday submitted to Comesa a report on the status of Kenya’s sugar industry seeking extension of the safeguards that cap the amount of sugar that member states can sell to the country.
The protection measures, which Nairobi has sought and got for the past 10 years, are meant to protect the country’s nascent sugar millers from cheap imports.
Kenya, having exhausted the allowable period for the safeguards in 2012, was given two more years in 2016 which ended in February 2018, prompting the current request for more time at the ongoing Comesa meeting in Lusaka, Zambia.
“We are seeking more time because we have not met the conditions issued to us,” said Trade Principal Secretary Chris Kiptoo.
Kenya will know its fate tomorrow when the 38th session of the Council of Ministers sits to deliberate on the issue.
The ministers’ meeting will be followed by the Heads of State and Government forum on Wednesday and Thursday next week.