Kenya plans to expand sugarcane crop

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FILE PHOTO - REUTERS
FILE PHOTO – REUTERS

Kenya will expand sugarcane cultivation under irrigation in order to enhance the production of sugar for domestic use and export, an official said on Saturday.

Anthony Muriithi, the interim director general of Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA), said that through irrigation, the country is capable of tripling sugarcane yields.

“Our initial trials in Kwale, coastal Kenya is very encouraging hence our plan to expand to other regions,” Muriithi said during an interview in Nairobi.

He said the government plans to increase the acreage of Sugarcane grown under irrigation from the current 1,736 hectares.

The official revealed that the government will avail soil testing facilities in cane growing regions to ensure that sugarcane is grown in the right type of soil.

“The testing will inform the fertilizer type and rates applicable and consequently improve on fertilizer utilization efficiency,” said Muriithi.

He said that due to inefficiencies and inadequate cane supply, sugar production in the last five years has varied from a high of 639,741 tons recorded in 2016 to a low of 376,111 tons realized in 2017 against local consumption of 1,000,000 tons.

The deficit, he added, is met by imports mainly from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) sugar-producing countries.

Muriithi observed that with a combined milling capacity of 43,500 tons from the 15 milling companies, the country has the potential to process over 1.2 million tons of sugar enough for local consumption and surplus for export.

He, however, noted that this has remained elusive due to inadequate raw material supply as well as inefficient factory operations.

He said that 4,767,129 metric tons of sugarcane were processed to produce 392,493 tons of sugar during the year ending 2019.

Sugarcane supports the livelihood of over six million people whereby over 370,000 small-scale farmers supply over 80 percent of factories cane requirement with the balance supplied by large scale farmers and nucleus estates owned by factories.

“There is a market potential for the sugarcane crop for sugar manufacture to meet the local demand and surplus for export,” said Muriithi.

The official said that the authority plans to avail clean cane seed and government-subsidized fertilizer, improve on prompt payments to farmers on deliveries and encourage farmers in adhering to harvesting mature cane to ensure sustainable cane production.

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