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Western MPs take cautious steps in Uganda sugar row

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MPs from Western Kenya yesterday rejected President Uhuru Kenyatta’s invitation to discuss a plan to open up borders for Ugandan sugar, fearing a political backlash if they are seen to be supporting more dumping of sugar in the local market.

The MPs, who were scheduled to meet the President Thursday morning, maintained they would only attend the State House meeting after being furnished with full details of a deal said to have been struck in Uganda during Mr Kenyatta’s recent visit.

Under the deal, Kenya will hand issue licences to Ugandan traders to export sugar to Kenya, at a time when the local market is already flooded with cheap imported sugar, most of it illegally. “We have decided to decline State House invitation that would have taken place from 8am because we have no details of the deal,” Sakwa Bunyasi, the caucus chairman said.

The 11 MPs also demanded the inclusion of MPs from Nyanza and Coast region where sugar is grown. Kenya, which produces about 590,000 tonnes annually consumes around 800,0000 tonnes. Kenya imports up to 200,000 tonnes of sugar to bridge the deficit from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa member states under special licences issued by Sugar Directorate.

The country’s supply of the commodity may be worse off this year after the largest miller – Mumias Sugar – stumbled in the first half of the year, prompting a government bailout. President Kenyatta has defended the deal saying it smacks of good neighbourliness to import from Uganda – Kenya’s top export destination – than other markets such as Brazil.

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