Through multi-agency collaborations, the taxman has closed on 198 cases of sugar smuggled through border points and the Port of Mombasa, seizing sugar valued at Kshs. 235.5 million.
The 1,695,625kgs of sugar seized between the year 2018 and 2021, is evident that the agencies are collaborating with one mission against graft, in this case, through border protection and deterrence of illegal imports.
Sugar smuggling through the porous borders is rampant and has led to heightened surveillance by border agencies which include Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS), Food Authority and Kenya Ports Authority (KPA).
To protect local farmers, The Government through The National Treasury capped the duty-free sugar imports to Kenya from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) at 210,163 tonnes. Nonetheless, this move has had a ripple effect where rogue traders find alternative illicit ways of smuggling sugar into the country.
The smuggled sugar is much cheaper, since it is not taxed and does not go through the necessary border regulations, posing unfair competition to the sugar manufactured locally. A 50kg bag of local sugar costs KShs.5,500 while smuggled sugar would cost KShs.4,450.
To curb this menace, KRA has increased border surveillance, KRA also auctions smuggled sugar and sends the money back to the government, as a deterrent measure against smuggling. In December 2021, KRA auctioned tonnes of contraband sugar worth millions of shillings, in Turkana County. The sugar was imported illegally from Uganda, and had been cleared by KEBS, so they were fit for consumption.
The Government in 2020 also successfully urged Uganda to stop sugar clearance through warehouse framework, which was then a loophole for sugar smuggling into Kenya. Sufficient collaboration among border agencies has led to deployment of staff at 14 new inland border points, along the routes frequented by traders who smuggle sugar. These routes have been marked across eight border countries and the staff are well trained to intercept any illicit products that enter the country.
Throughout the year, according to KRA statistics, an average of 3 people are charged and convicted for smuggling sugar, on a monthly basis. Taxpayers have since argued that smuggling could be connected to the existing gap in the market, where Kenya produces about half of the sugar consumed locally, and the rest are imported.
The Government through President Uhuru Kenyatta is very keen on fighting graft in every sector including economic crime. It is important for traders and Kenyans at large to note that there are enforcement measures through the Kenya Police, The Office of Director of Public Prosecution and The Judiciary, should they be caught on the wrong side of the law.