East African states must develop strategies to step up sugar production so as to forestall recurrent shortages that have forced the region to be a perpetual importer of the essential commodity.
The combined shortage of sugar for Tanzania and Kenya alone is about 360,000 tonnes, a senior official of the East African Community (EAC) revealed on Friday.
Currently, Tanzania’s sugar demand stands at 480,000 tonnes per annum, while production is 320,000 tonnes. Kenya’s sugar demand amounts to 700,000 tonnes against the production of 500,000 tonnes.
Contacted by The Citizen yesterday, minister for Industry, Trade and Marketing, Dr Cyril Chami, said the government has resolved to allow the importation of sugar as a way of dealing with the current shortages.
“The sugar board is in the process of allowing the importation of 40,000 tonnes of sugar at a reduced tariff rates,” Dr Chami said.
Speaking at the official launch of the East African Society of Sugar Cane Technologists (EASSCT) in Arusha on Friday, Mr Mosses Marwa, the head of agriculture and food security unit at the EAC secretariat, warned that the situation was serious and the government should act immediately.
“The shortfall in these two East African countries alone is about 360,000 tonnes and this is being imported from outside the region,” he said.
The society aims to improve capabilities that are needed to increase sugar production in the region.
He said the current production of sugar in the region was low when compared to the demand which is on the increase, posing a big challenge to all stakeholders in the sugar industry including EASSCT.
“The challenge before us is to evolve appropriate and which will enable the EAC member countries to be self-sufficient in sugar through efficient increase in and sugar production,” he said.
He said it was time now for the five EAC partner states - Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Burundi and Rwanda - to develop a commercially viable and sustainable sugar industry in the region.