Kenya, Rwanda turn to Uganda for maize imports worth $6.6m

Saturday October 8 2016

Workers loading maize onto a truck. PHOTO | FILE

Workers loading maize onto a truck. PHOTO | FILE 

By ALLAN OLINGO

Uganda has come to the rescue of Kenya and Rwanda, selling both countries more than 11,502 tonnes of maize worth $6.65 million over the past two months. This comes even as Zambia joins Tanzania in imposing a maize exports ban in order to build its reserves.

Data from the East Africa Grain Handlers’ Regional Agricultural Trade Intelligence Network shows that in the past two months, Kenya imported 11,303 tonnes of maize from Uganda valued at $4.61 million, mostly entering through the Busia border, while Rwanda has received 4,344 tonnes of maize worth $2.04 million through its Gatuna border.

Uganda and Tanzania have had a good harvest this year, and with Tanzania’s export ban, Uganda has been left to fill the maize shortage experienced by Kenya and Rwanda. Tanzania halted issuing export licences pending the release of a food availability assessment, while exports from Uganda to South Sudan were significantly disrupted by conflict in July, leaving Kampala to look for other markets.

The maize markets in Uganda are liberalised with minimum government interventions. This has seen them supply export markets in the region, mostly Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and recently South Sudan.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett said that Uganda’s maize is coming into Kenya as a stop gap measure given that farmers were greatly affected by the head smut disease.

“Uganda has low production costs hence the maize is competitive. We challenge our farmers to be more competitive in crop production in order to remain relevant,” said Mr Bett.

Maize from Uganda is being sold for $29 per 90kg bag, while local maize goes for $36.

“If we correct production inefficiencies, we shall have the best price,” said William Kimosong, chairman of the Kenya National Farmers Federation.

Rwanda, which is grappling with its worst drought in six decades has seen the government distribute over 2,200 tonnes of maize, while buyers scramble for the maize from Uganda. The National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda shows that prices of non-cereal staples such as Irish and sweet potatoes, beans, fruits, vegetables rose in August by nearly 25 per cent compared with last year, reducing purchasing power and access for poor, rural households.

On Wednesday, Zambia, which has been selling maize to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi through Tanzania said it will extend a ban on its exports despite having a maize surplus in the August harvest season.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Julius Shawa, Permanent Secretary in the Agriculture Ministry said the ban will last until the country is confident that it has enough reserves to feed itself. “We have seen the demand from our neighbours outstrip what we have for ourselves. If we allow the maize to leave our borders, we shall run into a crisis,” he said.