The mercury in sugar puzzle: Who’s fooling who?
- Trade CS Aden Mohamed relies on reports from KEBS, that say that all sugar that has passed through them is devoid of mercury.
- Sources however indicate that CS Matiang’i has no intention to respond to his colleague.
- Their clash has been so pronounced that an event that was scheduled for destruction of contraband goods worth Ksh.1.2 billion was cancelled.
Cabinet Secretaries have issued conflicting statements causing confusion and panic over the now controversial claims that sugar in Kenya contains deadly chemicals.
According to the Interior CS Fred Matiang’i, some of the sugar seized and declared unfit for human consumption contained mercury.
“They are killing us because they are selling poison to all of us… and none of us is safe,” he said last Thursday.
However, Trade CS Adan Mohammed, with one of his roles as regularisation of flow of commodities into the country, has refuted the claims.
“To the best of our knowledge, we don’t have mercury in any sugar… I have written to him to inform us where the tests were done,” he said in response to CS Matiang’i’s claims.
The Trade CS relies on reports from the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) who have maintained that all sugar that passed through them was devoid of mercury.
Sources however indicate that CS Matiang’i has no intention to respond to his colleague.
Their clash has been so pronounced that an event that was scheduled for destruction of contraband goods worth Ksh.1.2 billion at the exports processing zone in Athi River was cancelled.
The third CS, Henry Rotich (is Treasury), who sets importation policies said: “I don’t see what the problem is.”
“The issue is whether you imported the right sugar and there are agencies at the port to ensure what is brought in is proper,” he added.
In May 2017, CS Rotich gazetted a temporary waiver of import duty on sugar, opening the door for cheaper sugar to come into Kenya.
Every year, Kenyans consume up to 900,000 tonnes of sugar, but the country can only produce 600,000 tonnes.
This is what prompted the move to seek importation of at least 300,000 tonnes to close the deficit.
In recent weeks the government has heightened the fight against contraband goods especially those that are sneaked into the country without paying the requisite custom duty.
In the crackdown, hundreds of bags of ‘contraband’ sugar have been seized.
The Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI) George Kinoti also insists that there is mercury contamination in the confiscated sugar.
The politics of sugar, ideological differences and lack of common direction within government threatens to scuttle the war against contraband goods.
But just where does the truth lie?
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