A technical team from the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (Comesa) is in the country to assess Kenya's progress in making sugar production more efficient. The team will evaluate whether Kenya has fulfilled conditions set by the bloc before the council of ministers decides whether or not to extend restrictions on entry of tax-free sugar that have been in force for a decade. "A technical team is here to assess our need for extension so that when we make our formal request, they will understand our situation," said Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Felix Koskei . The government is seeking a one- year extension of the safeguards which lapse at the end of February. Some of the conditions that Kenya was advised to meet included lowering the cost of production, privatisation of State-owned millers and changing of the cane-selling formula. This is the fourth time Kenya is seeking an extension of the limits on duty free quotas since 2004 despite dithering on reforms like privatisation which would have made millers stand up better to competition. READ: Uhuru seeks Comesa sugar deal extension Kenya Sugar Board (KSB) Chief executive officer Rosemary M'kok said privatisation had stalled because of new laws that were being put in place to regulate the sector. " The Finance, Planning and Trade Committee in January 2013 delayed privatisation until such a time when all legislation affecting agriculture and county governments have been put in place," said Ms M'kok. The resultant law — Agriculture Food and Fish Authority and Crops Acts — will be enforced on Friday, January 24 , paving the way for the process. The sugar mills lined up for sale are Nzoia, which is insolvent to the tune of Sh16 billion, Chemilil, Muhoroni, Miwani and Sony Sugar . Ms M'Kok said two pilot payment systems were commissioned last year and are being collated to determine which one to use across the factories.
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