Arusha — The government of Kenya has defended importation of sugar and maize duty free or with reduced duties from outside the East African Community (EAC) bloc.
Industry, Trade and Cooperatives Cabinet secretary Adan Mohamed said the decision was made due to a shortage of the commodities in the region as production was severely affected by recent drought.
"It is because of drought and a critical shortage that we have to import maize and sugar from outside for our internal market," he told The Citizen in Arusha.
Mr Mohamed, who was here for the ministerial meeting of the EAC Sectoral Council on Trade and allied sectors, said Kenya was currently in need of at least five million tonnes of maize, while sugar demand was 400,000 to 500,000 tonnes a year.
He said the commodities could not be adequately supplied from within the region because the other EAC partner states were facing similar problems of poor production due to lack of rain. He allayed fears that the imported sugar or maize would find their way into other member states of the EAC as this would be tantamount to flouting the EAC Customs Union regulations.
Under the regulations, a country in need of importing commodities produced in the region had to seek a waiver authorising such importation with guarantee the commodities would not be sold in other states in the bloc.
According to Mr Mohamed, EAC imposed 35 per cent duty on imported sugar, but his country has requested for a tariff reduction to 10 per cent to allow more sugar from outside to address the shortage.
He added that his country had also waived duty on wheat imports from outside the region to as low as five per cent to attract supplies from outside the bloc.
"We had options to get supplies from Tanzania. But the problem with Tanzania is that there is no enough wheat," he said, adding that Tanzania didn't seem to have sufficient stocks of maize for his country to import.