Agriculture ministry must address sugar problems

Agriculture ministry must address sugar problems - price of sugar

Source: https://www.nation.co.ke


In Summary

  • Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Cabinet Secretary Bett has the duty to stabilise the retail price of sugar in the short-term and ensure steady supply in the market.
  • Together with his technocrats at the ministry, he must address the fundamental problems that have perennially dogged sugar production and supply.
  • They must weed out the corrupt cartels, enforce regulations and implement the various policies that have been enacted but not implemented.

The rising cost of sugar in Kenya is a matter of great concern. Reports from across the country indicate that sugar now retails at between Sh170 and Sh200 a kilo, up from less than Sh100 a few months ago. Worse, it is even missing from the shelves. This is an untenable situation that must be arrested quickly. However, we acknowledge the directive by Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett that traders should not sell the commodity above Sh120, arguing that it matches the pro rata cost of local production or importation.

But the sugar crisis is not new. It is a continuation of a long-running problem that has never been adequately addressed. Since the 1980s, the sugar industry has been consistently crippled by a combination of factors. They include political influence, poor policies and operational inefficiencies. Many firms have ground to a halt and even those surviving, have outputs below desired capacity. Two years ago, the parliamentary committee on agriculture and livestock and fisheries tabled a report that detailed some of the grave challenges facing the industry.

It highlighted illegal imports of cheap sugar, which flooded the market and depressed the sale of local products, hurting millers and farmers and forcing them to reduce production. It was also established that the sugar industry was under the stranglehold of corrupt and vicious cartels that influenced production, distribution and marketing of the commodity and often precipitated artificial shortages to enable them to increase prices and make quick money. For their part, sugar factories are poorly managed and operate inefficient systems that produce sugar that can compete in the market.

Compared with big regional producers such as Sudan, Egypt, Malawi and Zambia, Kenya’s production cost ranks highest. Mr Bett has the duty to stabilise the retail price of sugar in the short-term and ensure steady supply in the market. But together with his technocrats at the ministry, he must address the fundamental problems that have perennially dogged sugar production and supply. They must weed out the corrupt cartels, enforce regulations and implement the various policies that have been enacted but not implemented.