Global prices of sugar are reducing gradually and consumers in the country must not be denied a chance of buying the commodity cheaply.

Projected glut conditions in the international market have triggered shifts in our source import markets, which are now supportive of cheaper supplies and this should reflect appropriately in domestic consumer prices.

Unfortunately for us, the sugar industry has over the years suffered manipulation by cartels hell-bent on reckless profiteering. In the past year alone, sugar prices have risen to historic levels without any clear reasons from the players in the market.

This kind of greed must stop and consumers, already feeling the strain of high cost of living, handed a relief in terms of lower prices.

Most of the cartels thrive at the retail level of the supply chain, keeping prices sticky even when the ex-factory prices showed otherwise.

The cartels are known to mop-up stocks of sugar from factories and hoard it in secret locations to create artificial shortages that would enable them rip-off consumers through exaggerated prices.

The industry regulator, Kenya Sugar Board and the Ministry of Agriculture should move with speed and adopt new strategies that would lock out the cartels.

A possible strategy would be to identify well established retail outlets of high repute and have millers supply their produce directly to them for onward sale to consumers. By doing so, it would be easy to set favorable prices and monitor the sale of sugar to consumers.

The Kenya National Trading Corporation should particularly support this cause of product distribution because it falls squarely within its mandate. Prices can only remain stable if there is efficiency in the supply chain.

The corporation has sufficient godowns across all major towns that would come handy in ensuring sugar consignments are available to consumers.

The efforts should be escalated through inspections and raids of suspected hoarding dens and those found liable for such action punished for their actions.

Empty warnings from the comfort of boardrooms doesn’t tame the cartels and officials must learn to walk the talk. But above all the government needs to work towards bolstering the efficiency of the existing sugar firms by allowing the entry of strategic investors with expertise and capital to revamp them.

The privatisation of the millers is long overdue and Parliament must rise to the occasion and grant the requisite approval before the process is concluded.

source: businessdailyafrica

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