The sugar industry in Kenya is facing a severe crisis, with millers on the brink of closing their factories due to a lack of raw material. In a bid to avert massive layoffs, the Kenya Union of Sugarcane Plantation Workers is urging the government to allow millers to import sugar. The move is seen as a crucial step to bridge the deficit and ensure the continuity of operations in the sector. This article delves into the challenges faced by the industry and the urgent plea for government intervention.
Sugar Union Advocates for Sugar Imports:
Francis Wangara, the Secretary General of the Kenya Union of Sugarcane Plantation Workers, has highlighted the critical situation faced by the sugar industry. He emphasizes that millers are left with no choice but to temporarily shut down operations for three to four months due to the shortage of raw material. During this period, they would rely on imported sugar. To ensure the preservation of jobs and sustain factory maintenance, the union is calling on the government to allow millers to import a certain percentage of sugar.
Engagement with Government Authorities:
Wangara reveals that they have formally written to the Ministry of Trade, copying the Ministry of Agriculture, to consider their request. The union emphasizes the need for millers to be involved in the importation process, not just the Kenya National Trade Corporation (KNTC). The union further urges the government to allocate a portion of the 185,000 metric tonnes of sugar ordered by the government to the millers for direct importation.
Temporary Mill Closures and Cane Maturity:
The planned three-month closure of the mills aims to allow for the maturity of existing sugarcane in the farms. Wangara emphasizes the importance of avoiding the harvesting of premature cane, as it would not address the underlying issues in the industry.
Background and Challenges:
In earlier developments, sugar millers were excluded from the duty-free sugar imports window by the Sugar Directorate due to previous issues where millers focused on repackaging and selling imported sugar rather than supporting local farmers. The Kenyan government has also passed the controversial financial bill for the upcoming fiscal year, imposing an excise duty on imported sugar. Meanwhile, manufacturers are grappling with high production costs, contributing to the challenges faced in the industry.
The plea by the Kenya Union of Sugarcane Plantation Workers highlights the pressing need for government intervention in the sugar industry. Allowing millers to import sugar would help sustain operations, prevent job losses, and address the raw material deficit. The government’s decision on the matter will play a crucial role in determining the future of the industry and ensuring stability in this vital sector of the Kenyan economy.
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