Compliant with its role as the voice of the private sector in Kenya, KEPSA through the Agriculture Sector Network (ASNET) convened a private sector consultative meeting to discuss the challenges afflicting the sugar industry. The meeting, which was held on 29th September 2021 at the Serena Hotel, involved key private sector players engaged across the sugar value chain-ranging from farmers to millers.
The private sector noted with concern the potential ramifications of the regulatory inadequacies and perennial challenges afflicting the industry. Particularly, the slowed development of industry legislations and the influx of cheap imported sugar which is detrimental for the industry growth. It was worth noting that in the recent past, sugar cane production has been on a downward trend with data indicating that the production has declined from 635,700 tonnes in 2015 to 491,000 tonnes of milled sugar in 2018. On the other hand, the imports have been on a steady incline, which portends a bleak future for the industry. Besides, the livelihood of over 6 Million Kenyans is at risk if the current stalemate affecting the industry persists.
Taking cognizance of the fact that some of the sugar industry matters are subjudice, the private sector noted that it was undesirable and prejudicial to comment on the ongoing court proceedings. This notwithstanding, the private sector called for the implementation of the following recommendations to address the prevailing challenges;
- THAT, in principle, the sugar industry players had appointed ASNET to take lead in moderating affairs between the Government and the Sugar industry players (Millers & Farmers)
- THAT the private sector had agreed to pursue the development of an apex Sugar Industry federation to consolidate the fragmented private sector voices and varied BMOs in the Sugar Industry
- THAT there was need for the Sugar Bill to be enacted, with inputs from ASNET and Sugar industry stakeholders. The Sugar Bill 2019 is currently at the Committee Stage in Parliament.
- THAT ASNET and the Ministry of Agriculture should constitute and activate the structured public-private dialogue fora between the sugar industry players and the government to discuss and agree on topical issues affecting the industry. It is envisaged that the fora will encourage the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanism in lieu of legal redress which has characterized the industry.
- THAT there was need for the development of the Sugar Policy, Sugar Act and the Sugar regulations to fill up the regulatory lacuna afflicting the sector.
- THAT there was need for the government to reform the Sugar Development Levy which should be managed under Trust and paid on a prorated basis according to contributions made.
- THAT there was need to review the Sugar Cane Pricing formulae to ensure favourable rewards for the farmers
- THAT there was need for the government to gazette the Sugar Industry Taskforce Report 2019
In conclusion, the private sector restated the need for dialogue and a participatory approach in revamping the sugar industry. It was agreed that a conceptually satisfying framework and reforms should be premised on the fidelity to the Constitution and the rule of law.