Rwanda focuses to Zambia for affordable sugar


Rwanda sugar importers have turned to Zambia and Malawi as low production in Uganda and shortages in Kenya push up prices for the commodity across the region.

According to importers, the sugar market started feeling the pinch in July when major sugar millers in the region posted production shortfalls, hence affecting export volumes.

As a result, millers in Uganda, the market where Rwanda used to source the bulk of its sugar shipped more volumes to Kenya attracted by the higher prices there.

While it cost Rwandan importers Rwf381,338 to buy a tonne of sugar from Uganda previously, they would have to pay between Rwf608,519 and Rwf649,087 to buy a tonne of sugar from Kenya currently.

As a result, importers have turned to Zambia, where they are paying Rwf413,793 per tonne of sugar.

“We have opted to go to Zambia because the price there is much less compared with Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania that dramatically increased,” said Ephraim Rwamwenge, a sugar importer.

The country enjoys zero-rated sugar imports from the East African Community and Comesa member states. Official import trade statistics indicate that Rwanda is importing 1000 metric tonnes weekly from Zambia which is equivalent to 60 per cent of total demand.

Retail prices for sugar prices have jumped from the Rwf700 -Rwf800 range for a kilogram in September to Rwf1000/1100 this month. The price for 50-kg bag of sugar rose from Rwf35, 000 to Rwf45,000 over the same period.

Rwanda is heavily dependent on imported sugar but a dry spell in major producers such as Brazil, India and Thailand has sent global prices for the commodity soaring.

Annual output at Kabuye Sugar Works, Rwanda’s sole sugar miller remains in the 12,000 – 20,000 tonne range, well below the growing demand projected to reach 150,000 tonnes by 2020.

Higher prices for the commodity have fed into the cost of common consumer goods such as bread and beverages. Urwibutso Enterprises, the maker of the popular Agashya juice and other non-alcoholic beverages now retails the juice at Rwf4,500 up from Rwf3,800 in September.


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