Sugar History


Before independence, the sugar industry in Kenya was dominated by the private sector. Large-scale production and processing started with the establishment of Miwani Sugar Company in 1922, and expanded with the addition of Ramisi Sugar Company in 1927. After independence, the Kenya Government started playing a central role in the ownership and management of the sugar industry. Five more factories were established, namely Muhoroni (in 1966), Chemelil (1968), Mumias (1973), Nzoia (1978) and South Nyanza (1979). The latest entrant into the sugar industry is West Kenya Sugar Company (1981), which is a private enterprise.

To foster the development and efficient management of the sugar industry, the Government established the Kenya Sugar Authority (KSA) under an order of the Agriculture Act, Cap 318, through Legal Notice number 32 of March 17, 1973. In April 2002, the Sugar Act 2001 was enacted by Parliament to define the roles of the major players and stakeholders in the sugar industry, including millers, sugar cane farmers, outgrower organisations, and the Kenya Sugar Research Foundation. The Sugar Act also created the Kenya Sugar Board (KSB) (from the former KSA) as the Apex Body responsible for regulating, developing, and promoting the sugar industry in Kenya.


Historically, the growing of sugarcane in Kenya started with the involvement of the Kenya Government at the turn of the century, with the establishment of experimental farms at Mazeras and Kibos, whose sole activity was to evaluate sugarcane and other introduced crops. Subsequently, large production of sugarcane started in 1923 when a sugar factory was built at Miwani in Nyanza Province, Kisumu District and at Ramisi in Coast Province, Kwale District. Today sugarcane is grown for white sugar production in Nyando, South Nyanza, Mumias, Nzoia and Busia by small, large scale farmers and sugar factories, and occupies an area of 130,000ha.

Sugarcane variety Trials 1910-1917: Pioneering work involved evaluation of sugarcane varieties “White Transparent” and Stripped Ribbon” were planted in large scale plots in Mazeras and Kibos government farms between 1911 and 1913. The plants proved satisfactory in length, size and sugar contents or sweetness. There was no attempt made to convert the juice into crystal sugar. However, efforts were made by the Ministry of Agriculture in 1912 to 1913 to stimulate interest in sugarcane growing for the purpose of meeting the local demand for sugar. “Uba variety” was introduced from South Africa and planted in Mazeras and Kibos, while other varieties like B147, B156, B4596 were introduced from West Indies.

In the pioneer experiments in 1915 and 1917, the interest shown by European and India farmers due to enhance demand for “jaggary”, led to increased in variety trials in Kibos where variety No. 61528 called “Purple cane”, “Scaly seeding” B No. 3922 and Uba or Natal cane were planted widely in Kibos where Scaly seedling showed good vigour and growth. With the establishment of Miwani sugar mill in 1923, sixteen sugarcane varieties were evaluated for yield in Miwani zone which showed a mean yield of 97 tonnes/ha. The top three varieties then were CO 331, CO 213, and CO 434. The current old sugarcane CO 421 was not a commercial variety then.

In yet another trial established in 1956 and 1958, sixteen varieties were evaluated and the top seven varieties in cane yield were CO 453, B37193, CO411, CO421, CO290, NCO310, and B41227. In 1960, NCO 310 and CO 421 were the best among the twenty seven varieties evaluated in Kibos.

The Hawaiian varieties H38/2915, H29/7028, H44/3092, CO417, CO 453 and CO360 were susceptible to smut. In 1952, 1955 and 1958 experiments established in Mumias and South Nyanza showed CO 421, CO 419 and CO 331 being suitable for the area, with CO 331 giving significantly higher yields.

In the recent past, variety trials were conducted in Miwani, Chemelil and Muhoroni between 1965 and 1966. The standard variety at Miwani was out yielded by CO421 and B41211, having yielded 143 and 128.2 tonnes/ha, respectively. The results obtained from 12 different variety trials at Kibos, Miwani, Chemelil, Songhor and Muhoroni areas suggested then that varieties CO746, CO680, CO947, CO440, NCO339 and NCO 213 were possible candidates for these areas. These varieties outyielded the standards CO331 and CO 421.

At Ramisi area, varieties CO312, CO331, CO421, CO775, NCO293, NCO334 were tested extensively, with NCO334, NCO293, CO331 and CO617 performing very well hence recommended for expansion in the area.

By 1969 the following sugarcane varieties: CO 421, CO 617, CO 331, CO 467, CO 680, CO 1001, CO 775, CO 440, NCO 334, NCO 339, NCO 293, NCO 376, NCO 310, B 41227, B 3551, and N50/211 were recommended and released for commercial production for different parts of the country.

Of the East African (EAK) series bred during the East African Community, the following varieties: EAK 69-40 and EAK 69-41 were released in 1984 for commercial production for different parts of the country.

In 1990, four new sugarcane varieties namely: EAK 69-47, EAK 70-97, EAK 71-402 and CO 945 were released for commercial production for different parts of the country.

In 1998 three new sugarcane varieties namely: N14 suitable for irrigated or high rainfall conditions, CO 1148 and CB 38-22 were released for commercial production for different parts of the country.

In 2002, six new sugarcane varieties namely: KEN 82-216, KEN 82-219, KEN 83-737, KEN 82-808, KEN 82-401 and KEN 82-247 were released for commercial production for different parts of the country.

Currently, in 2006 four new varieties namely: KEN 82-472, EAK 73-335, KEN 85-83 and D 8484 are being considered for released for commercial production for different parts of the country.