Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya has made new changes in the Sugar Directorate.

 The new changes comes as he seeks to streamline the struggling sub-sector. In the reorganisation announced this week, director Rosemary Owino has been replaced with her Nuts and Oil Directorate counterpart Willis Audi. The two were moved in interim capacities.

It is said that Ms Owino’s exit was influenced by powerful external forces, who accused her of hampering sugar imports. Among other factors, the influx of illegal imports has undermined the local industry, with sugar barons running the show.

The Sugar Directorate recently indicated that Kenya exhausted its duty-free sugar import quota from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) by October. This means that any imported sugar will now attract 100 per cent VAT to limit stocks that come from partner countries and cushion the local sub–sector. Ms Owino made it difficult for cartels to flood Kenya with cheap sugar thus affecting the prices of locally produced sugar.

Atyang’ Atiang, the chairman of the Kenya Association of Sugarcane and Allied Products, accused the Ministry of Trade of spearheading Ms Owino’s ejection from the Sugar Directorate.

“It is unfortunate that the Ministry of Trade, without consulting the parent Ministry of Agriculture, has been pushing for duty-free imports and destroying the lives of thousands of farmers who depend on the crop,” he said.

The changes come against the backdrop of plans for a Sh1.5 billion bailout announced by President Uhuru Kenyatta recently for struggling state-owned millers. Industry players have been pushing to have the Sugar Directorate closely monitor the distribution of the funds and their use, and have proposed the creation of an inspection team to reassure farmers that the money is safe.

However, Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) director-general Kello Harsama described the changes as a normal reorganisation that can be carried out by the CS from time to time.

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