Kenya is bracing for continued sugar imports to address a pressing deficit arising from inadequate sugarcane supply.

Cornelius Serem, Chair of the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA), says despite a three-month ban on cane harvesting mid this year, the majority of millers are now operating at a mere 30 percent of their capacity with resumption of activities.

The Food and Agriculture Authority had enforced a temporary ban on sugar production in July, aiming to prevent millers from harvesting immature crops that could compromise the quality of the yield and exacerbate the existing shortage.

Unfortunately, Mr Serem pointed out that the suspension produced only limited results, leaving the industry grappling with the aftermath of expensive cost of production and a drought that characterised a significant part of last year’s planting season.

Mr Serem highlighted that the country has no choice but to resort to sugar imports to stabilise runaway prices that have now hit Ksh225 a kilo, in order to meet the nation’s demand for the sweetener.

This announcement comes amidst challenges faced by importers, who have managed to ship in only 30 percent of the allocated 100 thousand tonnes of duty-free quota.

Compounding the situation, the Sugar Directorate reported a 10 percent reduction in sugar imports for October, dropping from 66,755 tonnes in September to 59,985 tonnes.

However, a glimmer of optimism emerges with a 41 percent surge in local sugar production during the same period.

This boost is attributed to the resumption of production by three mills that are operational currently, contributing to a total production of 257,383 tonnes, a significant increase from the 182,970 tonnes recorded in September.

As Kenya grapples with the intricate dynamics of its sugar industry, the nation finds itself at a critical juncture, navigating the delicate balance between self-sufficiency and external reliance.

The imminent influx of imported sugar serves as a lifeline, ensuring the stability of sugar prices and addressing the growing demands of the populace.

gandae@businessdayafrica.org