Sugar imports deplete Kenya’s duty-free quota

Monday January 03 2022
Sugar import

Imported sugar is offloaded at the port of Mombasa. PHOTO | FILE


Kenya has almost exhausted its sugar import quota from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) after ramping up imports to cover for a local production shortfall.

The Sugar Directorate says Kenya had by October imported 201,530 tonnes of sugar against the required 210,163 tonnes, equivalent to 96 percent of the allocated quota.

The Treasury in March slashed by a third the amount of sugar that can be imported duty-free to Kenya from Comesa countries as the government moved to tame influx of the sweetener following an outcry from farmers.

The Treasury said imports that exceeded the set limit would attract 100 percent duty, effectively protecting farmers and local sugar processors from rogue importers.

Kenya has been grappling with a shortage of sugar supply occasioned by disruption in production after breakdowns by some of the millers in western Kenya.

This pushed up the wholesale price of sugar by 23 percent in November, one of the largest increments in recent months, with a 50kg bag selling at $54.3 up from $44.27 previously.


As a result, the consumer price of sugar shot from $2.01 to $2.36 for a two-kilogramme packet.

Calls for audit

Kenya had previously been allowed to ship in 300,000 tonnes of sugar annually from the Comesa member states to prevent dumping of the commodity into the country.

Kenya likely exhausted the new reduced quota by November, given that the latest import data from the Sugar Directorate does not include the two last months of the year.

From January to October, traders have been importing at least 35,000 tonnes of sugar on average to meet local demand. Kenya produces 650,000 tonnes of sugar annually against a demand of 900,000 tonnes.

Two weeks ago, sugar cane farmers, through the Kenya Sugarcane Growers Association, called for a new audit of the country’s sugar deficit, saying outdated data on the shortfall risks facilitating higher import volumes at the expense of local producers.