Court temporarily blocks duty free sugar import

Court temporarily blocks duty free sugar import
High Court blocks import of duty free sugar after case filed by activist Okiya Omtatah

Local sugar mills have been handed a lifeline to sell their stock after the high court issued an order temporarily stopping the import of duty free sugar into the country.

This follows a move by activist Okiya Omtatah to challenge the duty free waiver issued by treasury on October 4 allowing millers to import sugar into the country.

In his suit, Mr Omtatah argues the waiver is arbitrarily imposed without public participation involving all stakeholders including the affected local sugar industry.

Some local sugar millers had decried the waiver as they were forced to compete with imported sugar which has been retailing at a lower price.

Currently the wholesale price for imported sugar is averaging Sh3,600 per 50 kilogram bag whereas factory price for local manufacturers is between Sh4,000 and Sh4,400.

The Treasury scrapped duty on imported sugar from outside the COMESA region in May following a severe shortage of the commodity in the country, with 300,000 tons of sugar imported between May and August before the treasury opened a new window this month.

National treasury cabinet secretary Henry Rotich has been named as the respondent in the case.

Kenya consumes 870,000 tons of sugar against a production of 600,000 tons per year.

The deficit is met with sugar importation mainly from the COMESA region under strict quotas, as part of a plan to protect local sugar millers.

Sugar importation in Kenya however has been riddled with suspicion with industry players blaming it on the slow growth of the sugar sector.

Between January and July an estimated 245,168 tons of sugar was imported into the country, indicating the dependence of local consumption on the imported sweetener.

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Story By Dzuya Walter
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