Kenya steps up lobbying for sugar safeguards deal
9 February 2014
By Nicholas Waitathu
A technical team from the Ministry of East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism last week held a meeting with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) Secretariat over the progress of the local sugar industry.
The team led by Cabinet Secretary Phyllis Kandie met with the Comesa officials on Friday in Lusaka, Zambia to address a number of issues on the sector.
The meeting just about three weeks away before the expiry of the trade safeguards granted to Kenya for the last one decade explains the Government commitment to lobby for a one-year extension as it pursues privatisation local sugar mills.
The five State-owned factories to be privatised include Nzoia Sugar Company, Sony Sugar Company, Chemelil Sugar Company, Muhoroni Sugar Company and Miwani.
The protection Kenya has been enjoying since 2004 is expiring on February 28, 2014 after which sugar from other countries in the region will be allowed into the local market. Principal Secretary Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Fisheries Sicily Kariuki said the meeting was meant to update Comesa Secretariat on the progress of the local industry.Comesa secretariat is supposed to send a team of technical officials to Kenya to assess the status of progress anytime from now.
Cost of production
“The meeting is likely to address such issues and our hope is that all the requests the national Government has presented to the secretariat will be addressed appropriately,” said Kariuki. She explained that though the industry has undergone a lot of reforms for the last decade the cost of production of sugar still remains high, a situation that is killing farmers’ morale.
The meeting will equally discuss the timelines of the assessment team to be deployed anytime in Kenya on a fact-finding mission. Comesa safeguards were granted to Kenya, first in 2004 and extended in 2008 and 2012 and set to expire end of this month.