Sugar importation licence reversed
The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism has confirmed that the government has revoked the sugar import licence that was awarded to an investor who had expressed interest in investing in the sugar industry.
Details regarding the g rounds for the revocation are not yet readily available as Principal Secretary in the Ministry, Ken Ndala, only indicated that the ministry is working on a press statement that would be released to the public by end of business yesterday [Tuesday].
News of the sugar import licence was leaked to the media towards the end of 2017 by Illovo Sugar Malawi minority shareholders but the details of the licence largely remained shrouded in mystery as the government could not confirm the move.
In reaction when the news broke out, Illovo Sugar Malawi had indicated that it would be forced to lay off some of its workers if the government went ahead with the decision.
According to Illovo, allowing sugar imports would mean exporting Malawian jobs to the countries where the sugar would be imported from.
The Sugarcane Growers Association of Malawi (Sugam) has since described the revocation as a clear indication that the government is committed to ensuring the sustainability of the industry while also ensuring that Malawian rural sugarcane farmers continue to benefit.
At least 3,000 smallholder farmers grow sugarcane accounting for 20 percent of the sugarcane used by Illovo annually.
Sugam Board Chairperson, Frighton Njolomole, said a secure domestic market would ensure consistent supply of the product.
For a long time, Illovo has enjoyed a monopoly status in the sugar industry, a situation competition bodies argue leads to consumer exploitation as there are no competing products on the market to offer an alternative to consumers in case they are dissatisfied with services from the dominant firm.