The government has come up with a draft policy that is meant to revive the sugar industry, even as it bans sugar production for the next three months.
According to the draft policy – Revitalization of the Sugar Industry by the State Department for Crop Development – it will take the government up to 10 years to implement some of the interventions to revive the sugar industry.
The short term interventions are to be implemented within three years, the medium term between three and seven years, while long term ones will take between 7 and 10 years to be fully implemented.
Only two policy interventions will be implemented in the first three years; the establishment of a sugarcane pricing committee and development or review of regulations and guidelines that promote best practice, efficiency and competitiveness in the sugar value chain.
The National Validation Workshop on the draft policy was held on June 27, 2023, with sector stakeholders being given up to July 4, 2023 to submit their input.
The Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) had already suspended production of sugar to allow the current crop, which is mostly between 10-15 months, to fully mature before harvesting.
The directive by AFA, issued during a stakeholders meeting chaired by Ag Director (sugar directorate) Jude Chesire, forced major sugar millers to suspend operations.
The resultant shortage led to a spike in cane poaching, with prices retailing at a historic Ksh5,500 per tonne, and packed sugar at an average of Ksh220 per kilogramme.
The current total cost of cane production per hactare ranges between Ksh249,000 to Ksh290,000.
The high cost of sugarcane production in the country is brought about by low productivity, which is predominated by smallholder production and land fragmentation, as well as low adoption of improved varieties as many farmers still use low quality seed.
Other challenges facing sugarcane production include inefficient cane harvesting and transportation.
It is contemplated that the sugarcane revitalization policy will improve sugarcane production by ensuring sustainable and adequate supply of quality cane that meets milling requirements and guarantees favourable returns on farmers’ investment.
It is hoped also that county governments will support efficient sugarcane production and enhance farm diversification in the sugarcane growing areas, as both levels of government will among other things promote efficiency in sugarcane harvesting, transportation and scaling.
The draft policy, if implemented, will enhance efficiency in sugar and co-products processing in a bid to enhance production efficiency and competitiveness. It expects the government to commit to provide an enabling environment that will improve production efficiency and enhance competitiveness of sugar and co-products.
In the proposed policy, the national government will institute measures that will lower the cost of sugar production through provision of targeted tax incentives on machinery and equipment used in sugar processing.
It will also promote strategic partnerships in the establishment and management of sugar mills, and establish capacity building frameworks for skill development in relevant technologies.
On the other hand, the county government will support strategic partnerships in the establishment and management of sugar mills and review the county by-laws and levies to promote innovation and investments in value addition.
It is expected that the draft policy will improve marketing and trade by promoting a favourable business environment, which guarantees sustainable supply of quality and affordable sugar and co-products to the consumer.
The expectation is also that the national government will strengthen the regulatory framework and oversight mechanisms for coordinating sugar imports and exports, and develop a sugar and sugar by-products traceability system.
The county government will promote adoption of technologies through awareness creation, adaptive research and periodic evaluation, as well as promote access to quality and affordable farm inputs and other services.
It will also strengthen public extension and advisory services and facilitate private extension initiatives, among others.
On the provision of support infrastructure, the government will develop road, railway, ICT and other supporting infrastructure networks within the sugar production and processing zones by developing and implementing alternative, cost-effective sugar cane transportation systems like light rail system.
Consequently, both levels of government will co-operate to improve road networks in sugarcane growing areas, regulate the setting up of sugarcane buying centres, and support development of irrigation infrastructure.
By Sacco Review reporter
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