Agency bets on irrigation to address sugar woes

A tractor delivers cane to a factory in western Kenya. FILE PHOTO | NMG Kenya is banking on irrigation to bridge an increasing shortage of sugar in the market and enhance cane availability to cover for the huge deficit that has seen the country utilise a fraction of factories capacity.

Sugar directorate said the country had only produced a high of 640,000 tonnes in the last five years despite the ability to process 1.2 million tonnes to cover the existing shortage and provide a surplus for export.

This comes at a time when sugar demand has grown from an annual requirement of 900,000 tonnes to a million tonnes.

“Irrigation has the potential to double or triple sugar cane yields … Strategies will be put in place to expand the area under irrigated cane production,” said the directorate.

“With a combined milling capacity of 43,500 a day, the country has the potential to process over 1.2 million tonnes of sugar enough for local consumption and surplus for export. However, this has remained elusive due to inadequate raw material supply as well as inefficient factory operations,” it added.

Sugar production has been consistently low in the recent months as farmers shy off from the crop due to delayed payment and poor crop husbandry.

The directorate said combined factory rated capacity of 43,500 tonnes of cane per day requires in excess of 12 million metric tonnes of cane compared with the current production.

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