Kenya-Uganda sugar deal raises political temperatures
The new sugar deal between Kenya and Uganda has raised a political storm with Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) terming the deal hurtful to the country’s already pauperized sugar industry.
The opposition has criticized the deal, signed by President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni over the weekend, as harmful to Kenya’s economic interests.
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In statement signed by ODM party leader Raila Odinga, the opposition termed the deal, which will open Kenyan market to sugar from Uganda and Ugandan market to meat from Kenya, as detrimental to the sugar industry.
“The contracts mark a continuation of deals similarly shrouded in secrecy, mostly through single sourcing and where persona, business overrides national interests.”
Kakamega Senator Bonny Khalwale argued that the deal negates the government’s recent move to extend the COMESA deadline for allowing sugar imports in the country.
“How can the President move to protect the country’s sugar industry one day and then allow the deal that negates these efforts the next day?”
“Ksh 1 billion that was brought to Mumias by the president weeks ago is completely going to go down to waste. The move means the president has no respect for COMESA member states,” he said.
The lack of investment in new technologies in sugar cane farming and production of sugar has seen the once lucrative sugar industry lose its taste to obsoleteness.
Production has subsequently fallen drastically to an estimated 520 thousand tonnes of sugar against a demand of 750 thousand tonnes annually.
In order to meet local demand, Kenya imports at least 200 thousand tonnes of sugar, which opposition leaders allege cannot be supplied by Uganda.
“The so called Ugandan sugar will be nothing other than cheap sugar from Brazil and Egypt, which will be packaged not by Ugandan businessmen, but by Kenyan businessmen who have a special cartel in this country,” alleged Khalwale.
Over the years, cheap and illegal sugar imports have filled the supply gap left by the local industry, the net effect of which is high local sugar prices and the gradual death of the sugar millers like Mumias Sugar Company whose continued existence lies on a government bailout.
The leaders now want the details of the deal signed between Kenya and Uganda as well as other government-to-government deals made public.