Nairobi News

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Over 300 firms licensed to import duty-free sugar

Three hundred and seventy companies were licensed to import sugar when the country was experiencing a severe drought last year.

According to documents tabled on Tuesday by the Agriculture ministry before National Assembly’s Agriculture and Trade, Industry and Cooperatives committees investigating the entry of contraband sugar into the country, a company linked to Mr Muhoho Kenyatta was one of the firms given the licences but it did not import the duty-free sugar.

The firm, Protech Investment Limited, is co-owned by Mr Muhoho and Mr John Stuart Armitage.

Mr Muhoho is President Uhuru Kenyatta’s brother.

The quality of sugar consumed by Kenyans became a matter of public concern after Mr Matiang’i claimed that the government had seized sugar laced with mercury and copper.

But, the Interior minister and his Trade counterpart Adan Mohamed issued a joint statement clarifying that the sugar was only “contaminated” with traces of copper, not mercury.

In May last year, Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich, apparently responding to a presidential executive order, lifted duty on sugar, maize and powder milk.

In the executive order, President Uhuru Kenyatta declared the prolonged drought in some parts of the country a national disaster.

The notice was to last until August 31, 2018, in line with the East African Community Customs Management Act of 2004. But by the time it was closed, about 1.3 million metric tonnes of the duty free sugar had been imported largely from the non-Comesa region.

Although it is not quote clear whether the lake region where sugar is grown was hard hit by the drought, the government gave permission for the importation of sugar all the same.