MPs mock minister, fault gov’t on rising sugar prices

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Minister of State for Cooperatives, Fredrick Ngobi

A government response reassuring legislators on steps taken to reduce escalating sugar prices has attracted ridicule for what MPs said was the report’s inconclusiveness.

The response, made by the Minister of State for Cooperatives, Fredrick Ngobi, stems from a matter of national importance on skyrocketing sugar prices raised last year by Hon. Denis Obua (NRM, Ajuri County).

Ngobi told MPs that “the prices of agricultural products are slowly stabilizing,” adding that government’s intervention lowered the prices of sugar from shs8,500 in May 2017 to shs3,500 in December 2017.

Unmoved by the explanation, MPs poked holes in the Minister’s statement.

“I don’t think this is a serious statement at all. With this kind of commitment, the matter is far from getting over,” said Hon. Ronnie Mutebi (NRM, Buikwe South).

To arrest the notoriously rising prices, Hon. Emmanuel Ssengo (NRM, Gomba East) said the importation of duty free sugar, to which government is vehemently opposed, must be allowed.

“Let the Ministry allow people to import sugar in the short run; there is no problem in allowing people to import sugar,” said Ssengo.

Last year, hoarding of sugar by the business community was blamed for the hiked prices.

Equally, importation of duty free sugar has always been met with persistent opposition; for fear that it will imperil the economic survival of local sugarcane farmers.

In early 2017, Kenya’s Opposition leader, Raila Odinga, criticized the Kenyan government for importing sugar from Uganda, saying the move renders farmers bankrupt.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, however, slammed the Opposition leader at a function attended by President Yoweri Museveni, saying he couldn’t import sugar from Brazil when neighbouring Uganda can provide the commodity.

Ngobi promised to present another statement that shall address the MPs’ concerns.