Uganda’s sugar export figures have plummeted from 150,000 tonnes in the 2021/2022 season to just 29,000 tonnes in 2023, as reported by Asycuda customs data to the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA).
Jim Kabeho, chairperson of the Uganda Sugar Manufacturers Association (USMA), attributed the significant drop in export volumes to a shortage of sugarcane supply, resulting in reduced production.
“In 2023, the scarcity of sugarcane in our factories led to diminished sugar exports compared to previous years,” Kabeho explained to the Monitor on Tuesday.
Despite efforts to export sugar to four East African Community (EAC) member states, including South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya, and Burundi, Kenya remained Uganda’s primary export market. However, due to security challenges along transit routes, Sudan emerged as the highest bidder, accounting for 47.88 percent of Uganda’s sugar exports, according to Asycuda customs reports.
Kabeho lamented the influx of cheap sugar smuggled from Kenya into Uganda through illegal routes, undercutting local producers. He noted that while Uganda had agreed to export 90,000 metric tonnes of sugar annually to Kenya, poor production levels resulted in minimal exports to the neighboring country.
Furthermore, Kabeho highlighted Rwanda’s reopening of its border, allowing limited sugar exports from Uganda, while Tanzania continued to restrict sugar imports, accepting only 20,000 metric tonnes.
A small percentage of Uganda’s sugar (1.2 percent) was exported to Europe, including the Netherlands, Belgium, and Italy, according to Kabeho.
Wilberforce Mubiru, Assistant General Manager of Sugar Corporation of Uganda Limited (SCOUL), attributed the decline in export volumes to Kenya’s decision to permit duty-free sugar imports, adversely affecting Uganda’s sugar exports.
Mubiru emphasized that low export volumes not only impact foreign exchange earnings but also pose challenges in regaining lost markets. He stressed that a decrease in exports results in revenue losses for the country.
In February 2022, Uganda’s national sugar production was estimated at 600,000 metric tonnes annually, with domestic consumption around 380,000 metric tonnes, leaving approximately 220,000 metric tonnes available for export annually.