Kenya: Government Told to Allow Millers to Import Sugar
The Kenya Union of Sugarcane Plantation Workers have called upon the government to allow millers to be part of the importation of sugar into the country so as to forestall laying off workers.
The Union Secretary General Francis Wangara says millers are about to close their factories due to lack of raw material and will only rely on the imported sugar.
"Sugar Directorate has held numerous meetings with the millers and possibly by the end of this month, the mills will close down," he said.
Wangara says whereas the importation of sugar will relieve Kenyans from the shortage of the product, millers should be considered to be part of the process to allow thousands of factory workers to keep their jobs.
"Our mills will cease operations for three to four months, during this period, they will rely on imported sugar and we want the government to give them a certain percentage to import," said Wangara.
He says allowing millers to import a certain percentage is the surest way to sustain its labour force.
"This will mean that no worker is laid off during the period the mills will close down, since the mills will have resources to pay salaries and effect factory maintenance," he said.
Addressing a press conference in Kisumu on Thursday, Wangara says they have already written to the Ministry of Trade and copied to the Ministry of Agriculture so as to have their request considered.
He noted that the importation should not only be left to the Kenya National Trade Corporation (KNTC) but millers too should be allowed to bring in sugar into the country.
Wangara said the government had placed an order of 185,000 metric tonnes of sugar to be brought into the country to bridge the deficit.
"The sugar has not been brought to KNTC, we want half of the tonnes to be given to the millers to import directly into the country," he said.
Early this year, sugar millers were locked out of the duty free sugar imports window by the Sugar Directorate.
The move was occasioned by an occurrence in 2017 where millers abandoned buying sugarcane from farmers and concentrated in repackaging and selling of imported sugar.
Wangara however said the three months closure of the mills will allow for the maturity of cane already in the farms.
He noted that if the mills continue to harvest premature cane, then the situation will not remedy.
"Right now what they are milling is not profitable, because the sugar produced from young cane is very minimal," he said.