NAIROBI, JUNE 19 — Kenyan based – West Kenya Sugar Company Limited has distanced itself from the contraband sugar recently seized by authorities in the ongoing war on contraband.
This comes as the debate on poisonous sugar, said to contain mercury and copper traces, continues in the public domain.
West Kenya, which produces the popular Kabras Premium White Sugar and Kabras Brown Sugar, is among company’s whose brands have been linked to the illicit sugar which is said to have found its way to the shelves.
In a statement to newsrooms on Tuesday, the company refuted claims it was behind illegal imports and that its brands are unfit for human consumption.
The management said though it was among companies cleared by the government to import bulk brown sugar for processing, at the height of the 2016-17 drought in Kenya, the company maintained highest standards with its products going through the due process including inspection by government entities.
The prolonged drought experienced in Kenya last year caused a rise in retail sugar prices, a move that saw the Kenya Government through Kenya Gazette Notice Number 4356 (published on May 12, 2017) grant a four-month duty exemption for sugar imports up to August 31, 2017.
“In view of the exceptionally reduced supply of cane available from our preferred local farmers caused by that drought, West Kenya Sugar Company Limited along with several other companies, consequently applied for and were granted a licence to import bulk brown sugar by the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA)”West Kenya Sugar Company Managing Director Tejveer Rai said.
He notes that the importation of sugar involves Pre-Export Verification of Conformity (PVoC) certification from the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KeBS) who work with international quality assurance companies to certify that the sugar conforms to KeBS standards.
The Kenya Revenue authority is also involved to ensure that all requisite taxes are paid.
“ The bulk brown sugar that we imported is placed in quality-controlled, white woven bags which have an inner water-resistant liner. The bags are marked ‘NOT FOR SALE’’ as that sugar requires further processing to our exacting standards before it is released to the consumer market,” Rai said.
He said after importing brown sugar, the product undergoes further processing at its factory in Western Kenya County of Kakamega to ensure required conditions are met.
The final product is then tested in the company’s laboratories to ensure that it meets the KeBS table sugar quality standards and the Kabras Sugar brand quality standards, he added.
“West Kenya Sugar Company Limited operates an advanced quality testing laboratory to ensure the integrity of all our genuine products,” Rai said “We have invested heavily in an ultra-modern, sugar processing plant located in Kakamega County and take great pride in growing our market share by producing exceptional sugar.”
The management has further accused unscrupulous dealers of targeting its products which are among leading brands in the market.
“As a market leader, West Kenya Sugar Company Limited is often a target of counterfeiters and unscrupulous traders and packers who import and pass off contraband products in our name,” he said commending the ongoing multi-agency crackdown on counterfeits in country.
The management said it has provided access to government inspectors to all its facilities including the factory and storage sites in Nairobi, Nakuru and Webuye.
“ Samples of sugar that we imported are currently undergoing testing and we have no doubt that the results will confirm the integrity of our products and serve to counter the inaccurate, unsupported and alarming reports that are being circulated in the media,” Rai said.
“We further wish to confirm that West Kenya Sugar Company Limited was NOT the proprietor of the sugar reportedly seized by Government Authorities at Eastleigh in Nairobi June 5, 2018. We shall provide any assistance requested of us by Authorities in relation to their on-going investigations,” he added.
Rouge traders are said to counterfeit top brands in the market, mainly by using similar branding and packaging material. Among those affected include Mumias Sugar and Kilimo Kenya.
West Kenya said it has heavily invested in the country where it has contracted over 60,000 small-scale sugar cane farmers to supply the factory with local sugar cane. It says it has invested over Ksh400 million on its farmers in the last 18 months for cane development.
“We pride ourselves in paying our farmers seven days from delivery and have had no arrears to farmers since inception in 1981. The Factory employs 3,500 staff members and supports the local community through scholarship funds, medical outreach programmes, building of a maternity hospital, building primary schools, and various other Corporate Social Responsibility activities,” the management said.