Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NATION MEDIA GROUP
The government has asked Kenyans to “resist” anyone selling a kilogramme of sugar at more than Sh120.
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett on Wednesday claimed both imported and locally produced sugar should not cost more than Sh5,500 per 50kg bag, chiding traders for making abnormal profits.
“We are taking drastic measures, the millers in the country have reduced the price of 50 kilogramme bag of sugar to Sh5,500, and imported sugar is Sh5,200.
“Anybody selling sugar beyond Sh120 per kilogramme should be resisted by the consumers and we are going to take drastic action,” said the CS.
Mr Bett, speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the Ministerial Conference on Agriculture and Nutrition Data at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC), refused to elaborate on the exact action traders would face if found selling sugar beyond this limit.
Sugar, which is an essential household food item, has recently soared in prices, a situation blamed on cartels hoarding the commodity from the market.
Consumers have had to pay up to Sh170 a kilo while some supermarkets have gone on to limit purchases to four kilogrammes per person.
Kenya’s millers often produce 520,000 metric tonnes of sugar every year and have to import more to satisfy the demand of 800,000 metric tonnes.
The CS argues that his ministry has allowed importers to bring in cheaper sugar to complement available stocks from millers who he argued had made a pledge to sell within the recommended limits.
“It is very serious. In fact a week ago, the prices started coming down. Kenyans and businessmen should learn that when anything happens, they should not be the only beneficiaries,” he said.
His ministry has been fighting fires from a grumbling population lately, as consumers complain of scarce maize flour, expensive milk and exorbitant sugar prices.
On Wednesday, he claimed 500ml pack of processed milk should retail at Sh50 or less and that anyone selling beyond this will be “dealt with.”
His comments, though, did not explain how those traders who claimed they had obtained stock at higher prices, or spent their money to ferry the goods for a distance will be recompensed.
Last month, he launched a subsidy programme on the flour, a staple food in the country, meant to reduce price of a 2-kilogramme pack from Sh160 to Sh90.
But the flour disappeared from shops as traders argued there were little returns on the sales.
His ministry blamed cartels in return, as consumer lobby, the Consumer Federation of Kenya (Cofek), called for the programme to be stopped until its proper tracking is established.
Cofek Secretary-General Stephen Mutoro claimed that cartels were benefiting from the subsidy by buying maize cheaply from grain reserves but selling it to consumers at the price of their choice.
“In any subsidy programme, there will always be challenges, there will always be people who would want to cut corners…that is why we concentrated on structured millers because that was the best way to track movement of these commodities,” said CS Bett.
On Wednesday, he said there should be no more expensive flour because “more ships have arrived in the country,” with white maize.
“The business on the green maize is happening now. So, really, the intensity of what you could call the intensity of food shortage is very much suppressed now.
“But as we get more supplies now, we will be moving down the stream to even the posho millers so that they can supply at subsidised prices,” added the CS.