Duty-free sugar imports dock at port of Mombasa

Consumers may see the price of sugar come down in the coming days as the ships carrying the first consignment of the duty-free sweetener docks at the port of Mombasa. Imports of the commodity would normally attract a duty of 50 percent.

A ship manifest from the Port shows that the first ship will arrive on Tuesday with a second one docking on March 1. The first vessel –San Nicolas with 21,000 tonnes from Thailand will dock on Tuesday with the second one –Sheng Heng Hai expected to dock on Wednesday, the volume that it is carrying is yet to be disclosed.

These are the first consignments of duty-free imports to get to the country after the government gave a waiver for maize, sugar and rice last year.

The government opened an import window in December that would see traders ship in 100,000 tonnes of sugar outside of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) region to curb an imminent shortage in the country that has pushed up the cost of the sweetener to Sh312 for a two-kilo packet.

The government has allowed Kenya National Trading Corporation (KNTC) to import a further 200,000 tonnes of sugar duty-free. This implies that Kenya, would by the end of the year imported at least 300,000 tonnes of sugar out of the Comesa regional bloc. The country is allowed to bring in 350,000 tonnes from member states, but the country restricted the imports to 180,000 tonnes last year.

Last year, traders struggled to ship in the quota that the country was to import from the region, bringing in 115,000 tonnes against the required 180,000 tonnes by the end of November.

The Comesa countries where Kenya is allowed to import the commodity from, are selling their produce to other global regions especially the European Union owing to the good prices that it fetches there. According to the Sugar Directorate, in the EU Prices are higher by at least $20 per tonne compared to within the region.

Kenya relies on imported sugar to meet its annual deficit which has now grown to one million against production of 800,000 tonnes annually. Besides sugar, the government is also scaling up the imports of other essential commodities duty-free in a bid to address the high cost of living.

The State has disclosed plans to also ship in large quantities of rice, cooking oil, wheat and beans duty-free through KNTC, eliminating the tax which ranges from 30 percent to 50 percent on the various goods. The plan has caused disquiet among manufacturers and food processors who are yet to determine how they will fit into the State’s intervention in the supply chain.

KNTC will import rice amounting to 150,000 tonnes, cooking fat/oil (125,000 tonnes), sugar (200,000 tonnes), wheat (25,000 tonnes) and beans (80,000 tonnes) .

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