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Lobby protests at sugar imports plan

Wednesday September 2 2009

Agriculture minister William Ruto announced said the plan to allow duty-free sugar imports from non-Comesa countries would help address the biting shortage of the commodity in the country. Photo/FILE

Agriculture minister William Ruto announced said the plan to allow duty-free sugar imports from non-Comesa countries would help address the biting shortage of the commodity in the country. Photo/FILE 

By GITONGA MARETE and EUNICE MACHUHI

A lobby group has asked the government to rescind plans to allow duty-free sugar imports from non-Comesa countries.

The plan, according to Taxwatch Africa, is untimely as more than 15,000 tonnes of sugar were lying at the Mombasa port uncleared over customs warehouse rent arrears owed to the Kenya Revenue Authority.

Agriculture minister William Ruto announced on Monday that the plan to allow duty-free sugar imports from non-Comesa countries would help address the biting shortage of the commodity in the country.

In a letter addressed to Finance minister Uhuru Kenyatta, Taxwatch Africa says: “It would be more sensible to waive rent on the shipments to facilitate their release instead of importing more sugar while holding the commodity at the port.”

The group also fears the duty-free imports would have a negative effect on local sugar producers.

The letter, signed by the group’s tax and economic affairs director, Dr Ben Orwa, says a further 50,000 tonnes of sugar from various Comesa countries were expected to reach the country soon.

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At the same time, a sugar importer who was ordered to deposit Sh5 million security in an interest account in respect of a case filed in the High Court is yet to comply with the directive.

Semliki Mineral Resources, which is being accused of illegally bringing tonnes of sugar into the country, was ordered to deposit the cash pending determination of a case filed against it by Mumias Sugar Company.