Kenya National Assembly [KNA] (2019) Report on Implementation Status of the Departmental Committee on Agriculture, Livestock and Cooperatives’ Report on the Petition on and Inquiry into the Crisis Facing the Sugar Industry in Kenya. Twelfth Parliament, 3rd Session, Nairobi, June 2019.
ABSTRACT: This paper utilized national data obtained mainly from published sources as well as information obtained from field visits, key informant interviews, reports and records in the coastal region of Kenya. It is a sector review of the sugar industry in Kenya, with special focus on opportunities for expanding production in the coastal region. Sugar, or sugarcane (Saccharum Hybrids spp.) is among the top six commercial crops grown in Kenya. The others are tea, cut flowers, vegetables, coffee and maize. Industrial sugar was introduced in Kenya in 1902 and the first processing factory opened in 1922. In the 1960s, new government policy encouraged expansion of commercial sugar production with new factories opening in western Kenya. By the mid-1970s, Kenya was a sugar exporter. But from the 1980s, the sugar sector started to decline both in production and profitability, with the country becoming a net sugar importer by the 1980s. Although the area under sugarcane has expanded over the years to cover 220,000 ha, productivity is low achieving only 55 tonnes/hectare. Meanwhile, production costs have been increasing, averaging US $1007/tonnes in 2018. Over 80 percent of the sugar is grown rainfed by smallholder farmers mostly in western Kenya using low inputs, with consequent poor productivity. The sugar sector has numerous challenges including: agronomic, technological, economic, management and policy limitations. This paper traces the main issues impacting the sugar industry in Kenya. It finds a sector in turmoil that requires significant reforms. It explores prospects of the next sugar revolution emerging from the coast. The coastal region has land available for rainfed and irrigated sugarcane, a warmer climate and possibilities to grow short-maturing cane varieties of higher sucrose concentrations. But other constraints are also inherent at the coast. These must be overcome for sugar to become a major cash crop in the region.