Kenya's sugar retail prices remain high despite duty-free imports

Tuesday May 09 2023
Kenya sugar retail prices

Packets of sugar being sold at a supermarket in Nyeri County , Kenya. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NMG


Duty-free sugar imports, which were allowed into Kenya from January, have failed to cool off high retail prices.

Data from the Sugar Directorate indicates that the volumes imported between January and March were 93,000 tonnes against 46,000 in a similar period last year.

The sharp increase in import volumes was on the back of the waiver on duty to allow the shipping of cheap commodities to address a shortage that has kept prices high.

The directorate says the average price of sugar is Ksh157 ($1.15) a kilogramme, up from Ksh150 ($1.10) in January, citing the rising cost of a shortage locally.

Duty-free import of sugar is part of a wider government plan to lower the high cost of goods.

Read: No cheap food in sight for Kenyans


Locally, production has been inhibited by diminishing cane supply on the farms. The shortage of cane has seen millers grapple with the little available, pushing the price of a tonne of the commodity from Ksh4,584 ($33.58), which is the recommended price by the sugar directorate, to Ksh5,250 ($38.46).

The diminishing supply of cane to factories, which has cut down on production activities, saw the total sugar bagged in the review period decline by 26 percent to 49,761 tonnes. The decline in production will compel consumption due to low supply in the market.

Outside Comesa

The first two vessels with more than 42,000 tonnes of sugar docked in February to ease the pain of the decline in production by local millers.

The government opened an import window in December that would see traders ship in 100,000 tonnes of sugar outside of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) region to curb an imminent shortage in the country that had pushed up the cost of the sweetener to Ksh312 ($2.29) for a two-kilo packet.

The state has also allowed the Kenya National Trading Corporation to import a further 200,000 tonnes duty-free.