Kenya requests further extension of Comesa sugar safeguards


Kenya requests further extension of Comesa sugar safeguards

Tractors transporting sugarcane from the sugarcane plantations along the Kisii – Migori highway. PICTURES | BENSON MOMANYI | NMG

Kenya is asking for a further extension of Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) sugar safeguards, before they expire in February.

The extension, if allowed, will see Kenya get a record sixth relief from safeguards against an allowed limit of five years under the Comesa trade rule.

Kenya is looking for another year to resolve outstanding issues in the sector as it wants to make the industry competitive ahead of liberalization which will see imports flood in without limits.

“We have already entered into negotiations for the extension of safeguards to enable us to complete some of the things that are still outstanding,” said Sugar Chief Executive Willice Audi.

Mr Audi said outstanding areas include the payment method Comesa has recommended changing from weight to sucrose content quality.

Comesa had launched a series of measures in Kenya on the road to liberalisation.

These measures include lowering production costs, diversifying sugar factories into other sources of revenue such as ethanol production and cogeneration, changing the payment formula and increasing production capacity.

Mr Audi said the negotiations are being led by the Ministry of Commerce and are to be presented to the Comesa Council of Ministers for consideration.

In 2019, Kenya was granted a three-year extension to put its house in order, but the window is closing as the country failed to meet all the conditions set.

Kenya has always argued that allowing uncontrolled imports would hurt the sugar sector due to the expensive production of the commodity locally.

The cost of producing a ton of sugar in Kenya is around $900 (108,729 Sh) compared to $400 (48,324 Sh) in Mauritius.

Mr. Audi said management is working to address high production costs to make the industry more competitive with imports.

“We are addressing all of these issues and by the end of a year I’m sure we would have achieved that,” he said.

Kenya is allowed to import up to 350,000 tons of sugar from the Comesa region to fill the local deficit.

There are plans to deprive Kenya’s state-owned sugar mills as one of the ways to save the industry.

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