As the battle for sugar price reduction rages, Illovo Sugar Company is today expected to appear before the Parliamentary Committee on Trade, Industry and Tourism to respond with evidence on issues and concerns raised against it.
On Thursday, the Committee summoned Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives-CDEDI, Beverage Associations and Mugisha Investments which was initially awarded two licenses to import sugar into the country.
At first, CDEDI wrote the parliamentary committee requesting it to conduct a public inquiry on sugar production and pricing in Malawi; arguing consumers are paying more than necessary for the product compared to the neighbouring countries.
Its Executive Director, Sylvester Namiwa maintained before the Committee that sugar prices remain too exorbitant in the country and demanded an explanation from Illovo why it is uncomfortable for government to issue more import licenses; a move that could eventually reduce the prices.
Again, Namiwa proposed that Salima Sugar Company should be listed on the Malawi Stock Exchange to allow Malawians benefit from the company’s over 4,000 hectares of land.
CDEDI also pushed for the tabling and passing of the shelved Sugar Industry Bill of 2021; stressing that could sanitize the industry.
From the Beverages Association, the Committee sought to gather evidence on CDEDI’s claims that locally produced industrial sugar is more expensive than imported from within the region.
On the other hand, Mugisha Investments was to provide evidence that imported industrial sugar can be sold to industrial users at a cheaper price than the locally produced Illovo sugar.
The Committee further sought to establish from the company whether there are any employment benefits from their operation and what tax arrangements will be followed, including any estimated tax revenues from the importing business.
The Radar has also learnt that officials from the Ministry of Trade and Industry are early next week expected to engage Illovo representatives on the matter.
Line Minister, Simplex Chithyola Banda had given the company a seven-day ultimatum to reduce the sugar price. But the company only proposed a 6 percent reduction for industrial sugar only.
Then, Chithyola Banda had threatened to issue more sugar import licenses if Illovo failed to reduce the price. All this is happening amid allegations of unchecked cartels in the sugar industry that have prevailed for years and there are hopes the on-going public inquiry could help unearth some truths behind the matter.