The government is holding about 1.4 million bags of contaminated sugar, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i revealed Thursday.
The CS told the joint National Assembly Committees on Agriculture and Trade that the contaminated sugar was impounded by officers from the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) at various points across the country.
He further told the MPs that the government was preparing to destroy contra-band worth Sh1.2 billion — among them fertiliser, sugar and alcohol.
Dr Matiang’i said about 72 people have since been arrested in the crackdown on contraband with the help of Interpol and charged in court.
However, the CS assured Kenyans that the sugar on supermarket shelves is fit for human consumption.
This is after the MPs accused him of issuing alarming statements and making genuine traders incur huge losses.
“Any sugar that is in the market has been tested by the relevant government agencies and is good. The one that is held, I cannot vouch for it because it is contaminated. There could be more,” Dr Matiang’i told the MPs.
He told the committee that investigations into how illegal goods were finding their way into the country would take time as it is “a complex international affair”.
Also appearing before the committee yesterday was West Kenya Sugar chairman Jaswant Singh Rai, who told the MPs that 178,000 metric tonnes of imported sugar found its way into the local market without being re-processed.
According to the Kebs regulations, bulk brown sugar imported into the country must be processed first before it is packaged and sold for human consumption.
Mr Rai, who was among those who imported the brown sugar between May and August last year, told the MPs that three ships carrying the commodity docked at the port of Mombasa, were cleared and the unprocessed sugar sold to unsuspecting consumers.
“I saw with my own eyes the three ships docking and the sugar being offloaded, bagged and sold in that condition without processing. Not even a kilogramme of the sugar was taken for further processing, which is contrary to the Kebs regulations,” he said.
Mr Rai’s name was on the list of about 115 individuals National Assembly majority leader Aden Duale tabled in the House linking them to contraband sugar business in the country.
Questioned by MPs why he still had huge stocks of the imported sugar, Mr Rai said: “I have that stock because I am processing each and every bag. If I was greedy, I would have already sold everything like the others have done and enjoy myself on the beach.”
The two committees are investigating how unscrupulous individuals took advantage of a Gazette Notice by Nation Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich to flood the local market with the duty-free sugar.