Sugarcane agriculture was introduced in Kenya at Kibos in the early 1900s by Indian settlers who used it to manufacture jaggery. Before independence, the sugar industry in Kenya was dominated by the private entrepreneurs. Later, the Ministry of Agriculture conducted field experiments on farmers’ fields in Kibos and Miwani and laboratory investigations at the National Agricultural Laboratories – Kabete, in Nairobi.
Large-scale production and processing started with the establishment of Miwani Sugar Mills in 1922, and expanded with the addition of Associated Sugar Mills at Ramisi in 1927. After independence, the Kenya Government started playing a central role in the ownership and management of the sugar industry. The Government established the following factories: Muhoroni (1966), Chemelil (1968), Mumias (1973), Nzoia (1978), South Nyanza (1979). Private investors have also built sugar factories in West Kenya (1981), Soin (2006), Kibos (2007), Butali (2011), Transmara (2011) and Sukari (2012). The latest entrant into the sugar industry is Kwale International Sugar Company Limited at Ramisi is a private enterprise which started milling cane in 2014.
Organized research on sugarcane dates back to 1969 when the government set up the Sugar Research Station at Kibos, within the Nyando sugar belt, to enhance research on sugarcane production. In 1988 the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) was reorganized and the station was renamed National Sugar Research Centre, with a national mandate on sugar research. Through the efforts ofthe Kenya Sugar Authority (KSA) and KARI to enhance efficiency of sugar research, the Kenya Sugar Research Foundation (KESREF) was created and started its operations on 1st February 2001. KARI and KSA provided the initial resources to enable KESREF to take off.
Recently the Kenya government undertook reforms in the agricultural sector to improve efficiency in service delivery. This culminated in the formation of two new state corporations in the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries namely: Agriculture, Food and Fisheries Authority (AFFA) and Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO). AFFA, through the Sugar Directorate, is responsible for regulating, developing, and promoting the sugar industry while Research in sugarcane cultivation and sugar production is the responsibility of KALRO through the Sugar Research Institute (SRI).