Kenya could be staring at a sugar crisis in the coming months after a number of millers suspended production until November.
The Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) has directed some sugar factories to halt sugar production for more than four months.
In addition, AFA said the move seeks to allow ample time for the maturation or sugarcane.
The regulating body announced that all sugar companies will resume production on November 30.
In a letter dated July 13, West Kenya Sugar Company announced the suspension of its operations up to the said date.
The CEO Sohan Sharma stated that the company will review the situation after three months with a view of resuming operations as early as possible.
“Consequently, we write to advise that we shall be suspending our factory operations as from Friday 14h July 2023 up to 30th November 2023,” he said.
“We further advise that this is a temporary measure which the Company expects to normalize within the stated period, after which, the Company will return to normal operations,” he added.
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As a result, the company directed all staff, except those working in critical areas to proceed on paid annual leave up to July 31 this year.
Sharma added that the company will use this period to run a consultation process after which it will give the way forward.
“These are difficult times for everyone and the company kindly requests your support and cooperation so that we emerge stronger for it once the cane situation normalizes,” he said.
Sugar crisis could affect prices
In a notice dated July 12th, Butali Sugar Millers announced that the company will close down on Monday, July 17th.
In its statement, Butali cited that during the period, the company will conduct maintenance of its machines.
However, the miller did not give a date as to when production will resume.
Many sugar millers across the country are battling acute cane shortage stemming from failed and severe drought.
Consequently, some resorted crushing of immature cane which reduces the quality of the sugar.
According to Michael Arum, Sugar Campaign for Change Coordinator, this also reduces farmers profit margin since immature cane is light in weight.
There are concerns that the suspension of production could plunge the country into a sugar crisis.
Already, the price of the commodity has hit an all-time high with a two-kilogram packet retailing at Ksh.420.