Kenya plans to start importing sugar from Comesa member states after a four-months break that saw the country's private firms ship in more than 250,000 tonnes of duty free sugar from countries outside the 19-member bloc.
Kenya's sugar directorate said the move aims to bridge the widening sugar deficit in the country, which is expected to hit 600,000 tonnes, from the current 300,000 tonnes, in the next three months.
Last year, Kenya's sugar demand was 900,000 tonnes against local production of 639,000 tonnes.
This year's demand is projected at one million tonnes against local production of about 400,000 tonnes, largely due to underperformance by Mumias Sugar Company and prolonged drought, according to the Sugar Directorate in Kenya's Agriculture and Food Authority.
Head of the directorate Solomon Odera told The EastAfrican that the slump in domestic production of sugar due to inefficient millers and the increased consumption of the commodity has affected the retail price of sugar, which is currently trading at Ksh120 ($1.2) per kilogramme.
"Our sugar deficit ordinarily is 300,000 tonnes, but this is a bad year in terms of local supply and we expect this deficit to grow from 400,000 tonnes to 600,000 tonnes by the end of the year.
This is the deficit we are trying to plug. We are now planning to go back to Comesa member countries under the same arrangement," said Mr Odera.
Through the Kenya Gazette Notice No.4536 of May 12, 2017, Kenya waived duty on all sugar imported into the country up to August 31, 2017.
The decision was informed by the unprecedented rise of local prices and an acute shortage of sugar in the domestic market.
According to Kenya's Principal Secretary for Trade Chris Kiptoo, the Comesa region was also affected by the drought.
As such, traditional suppliers from the region also experienced a shortage of sugar and were not able to effectively service the quotas allocated to them.