Country faces sugar shortage, price hike as crackdown continues

An acute sugar shortage has hit parts of the country as multi-agency officials continue to raid premises to impound suspected contraband sugar that is said to contain harmful elements of mercury and copper.

Meanwhile politicians have exerted pressure on West Kenya Sugar Company to declare the wholesome of its popular brand of Kabras Sugar after police raided Rai Ply Company, formerly Pan Paper Mills in Webuye and impounded 2000 tons of suspected sugar.

A spot check in sugar outlets by the Kenya News Agency establish there is a drastic decrease of the commodity in most outlets especially in Chuka Town Tharaka Nithi County’s commercial hub.

There is no sugar for resale from our suppliers and there are fears that if the situation does not improve many wholesalers may opt to purchase illegal consignments, Daniel Kariuki a customer attendant at one of the major supermarkets said.

He said before the ongoing crackdown the supermarket purchased the commodity from intermediaries but with what is going on currently they were forced to make direct purchase from the producers which has brought about increase in price of the product due to high transport cost.

In spite of the shortage however, residents in Tharaka Nithi County have expressed gratitude to Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi for his onslaught on counterfeit products in the country.

Kakamega County Deputy Governor Prof. Phillip Kutima said the sugar netted at different parts of the country had painted the company negatively and left the fate of thousands of farmers who supply sugarcane to the company hanging in a balance.

Prof. Kutima asked the firm which has been in operation in Kakamega for over two decades to clear the air over the matter to quell fears amongst farmers and consumers of Kabras sugar produced by the factory.

We appreciate the fact that they have been here and actually pay our farmers on time compared to other millers. But Kenyans want to know the truth, they need to be reassured that the Kabras brand is genuine and not repackaged poisonous sugar, he said.

The Deputy Governor said the issue was brewing tension across the sugar growing county and was likely to affect the operations of the factory if the matter is not clarified.

If the operations of the factory are interrupted then thousands of our farmers who depend directly on the weekly payments from the factory are going to suffer. We should not allow this to happen, he said.

Speaking to the media in Kisumu, Kutima called for speedy investigations into the matter to vindicate the company or bring to book individuals involved in the cheap sugar imports saga.

Over the weekend, flying squad detectives carried out an operation at Rai Paper factory and netted over 2, 000 metric tonnes of suspected contraband sugar.

The discovery has caused tension amongst farmers and area residents with fears that the firm has been repackaging cheap imported sugar and selling to unsuspecting customers under their Kabras Sugar brand.

More than 500 bags of contraband sugar have been seized in Kajiado County following an intensified crackdown on contaminated sugar in the country.

The 500 bags of sugar packed in 50 Kgs sacks were seized in various wholesale and retail outlets in the county.

A team of security agents led by County Commissioner David Kipkemei raided several outlets in Kitengela, Isinya, IlBissil and Kajiado towns on Tuesday, where tons of unlabeled sugar were impounded.

Other unlabeled goods such as cooking oil, biscuits and rice were also seized as four people who were found repackaging sugar at a store in Kitengela town were arrested.

Kipkemei said the commodity will undergo analysis with the help of KEBS and the Government chemist to ascertain its content before action is taken accordingly.

We have impounded thousands of kilograms of sugar and contraband goods. These goods are from Brazil, Zimbabwe and Uganda and are repackaged here in Kenya. I want to warn those selling contaminated sugar that they will be arrested and charged he said.

Reports indicate that the sugar was to be transported to Mumias and Kabras sugar factory for refining and repackaging.

Some of the impounded sugar is suspected to contain mercury and copper elements which are dangerous to the human body when consumed.

Earlier this month police seized 2,000 bags of sugar in a warehouse in Eastleigh and pronounced it unfit for human consumption.

Similar raids were conducted in Bomet where County commissioner Mr Geoffrey Omoding led a team of multi-agency in confiscating contraband goods included 200 bags of sugar which was found being repackaged by workers at Kipchimchim supermarket and at Mara-River supermarket in Bomet town without batches indicating the source of the sugar.

Migori police on Wednesday intercepted nine trucks ferrying 4,720 bags of sugar to a reportedly private miller in the region before being repackaged and sold to the public.

Migori County Government enforcement officers grew suspicious when the trucks made way forcing them to put on spikes on the road until they verified the content.

Rongo Sub-County commissioner Joseph Satia confirmed that the traders told police that the sugar was headed to Sukari Industries for sale.

A team of government officials from KRA, KEBS and anti-counterfeit unit arrived at the station and took time to verify the content of the trucks and counted the bags.

However West Kenya Sugar Company Wednesday, disputed claims that Kabras sugar is unfit for human consumption.

In a paid-up advert in newspapers, the company said their sugar surpasses all the requisite quality standards, refuting claims it owned sugar seized by government agencies in Eastleigh.

Source: Kenya News Agency