Kisumu Governor Prof. Anyang’ Nyong’o has voiced his concerns about the existing gap between sugar manufacturing and consumption in Kenya.
Prof. Nyong’o, who doubles as the Chairman of the Lake Region Economic Block (LREB), believes that a major topic to be discussed at the inaugural sugar conference was the proper governance of the sugar industry.
The summit, which kicked off in Kakamega County on Friday, brings together 14 sugarcane-growing counties from LREB and aims to find solutions to the ailing sugar sector.
He advocated for the inclusion of a regulatory agency that allows all players to have a say and representation in the sector.
Addressing the press Thursday as a build-up to the conference, the county chief stressed the significance of the sugar industry in spurring both the agricultural and industrial sectors as well as contributing to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the counties in LREB.
He pointed out the unauthorised importation, repackaging, and sale of white sugar, falsely marketed as products from local factories by millers transitioned to exporters, which poses significant health concerns to consumers as major issues plaguing the sugar industry.
“When an individual is simultaneously a miller and an importer, it creates a conflict of interest that can lead to health complications for the consumers. The elusive nature of these rogue importers makes accountability for their actions impossible. This is just one of the topics that need to be discussed at the upcoming conference,” Prof. Nyong’o stated.
Further, the governor explained that if millers were to import sugar for their own use, it had to be done through a known state agency that would act as a supplier and prevent millers from becoming importers of sugar.
“Kenya has the capacity to produce enough sugar for both local consumption and export, but somehow we still need to import 350,000 tonnes of sugar annually, regardless of how production changes,” said the governor.
He acknowledged that while a lot of proposals to restructure the sugar industry into a productive and thriving industry had been made in the past, they had yet to be implemented, and the institutions set up to manage the industry had been disbanded after failing to do their part.
Nyong’o, however, remains optimistic that leveraging these vital recommendations during the upcoming sugar conference will shift the focus from problem analysis to the development of effective solutions.
By Feliciah Wanyonyi