Kenya has now started selling maize to Uganda, as official data shows that grain from Tanzania is still going into Kenya.
The Regional Agriculture Trade Intelligence Network (Ratin) report shows that Kenya exported more than 42 tonnes of maize to Uganda through the Busia border a week ago.
Grain prices in Kenya fell after the end of a long dry spell. Many parts of the country have harvested their crop, with businesses now turning to regional markets for higher profit margins.
This past week, a 90kg bag of maize dropped from $41.98 to $36.73 in Kenya, while in Uganda it increased from $27.46 to $27.86 and increased significantly in Rwanda from $24.2 to $40.42.
Uganda also increased its exports of maize to Rwanda to 1,116.5 tonnes in the past two weeks, and to 1,263 tonnes to Kenya in the same period.
According to the Rwanda Grains and Cereals Corporation, even with a good harvest in May, which came after a prolonged drought, grain supplies have continued to tighten in the local market and pushed up prices of maize.
Traders and millers have attributed the increase of prices to various reasons, including disease and drought that led to poor maize harvest and eventual shortages.
Despite a ban on exportation of maize to Kenya from Tanzania, 130 tonnes of maize was sold through the Isebania border.
In June 2016, Tanzania’s Minister for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Charles Tizeba banned maize grain exports in an effort to curb practices that jeopardised food security — such as pre-harvest sale of produce — and encourage value addition and promote the exportation of flour.
Kenya resorted to getting maize from Zambia; Lusaka negotiated with Tanzania to allow passage of the grain through the country, with a special lane to facilitate faster clearance and transportation to Kenya.
According to an analysis by the Food Security and Nutrition Working Group, maize exports from Tanzania also increased in the informal market.
The ban on maize exports to Kenya by Tanzania has led to the grain being the most dominant commodity traded on the unofficial market between the two countries.
Exports from Tanzania to Kenya in the second quarter increased by 4,300 tonnes — a 17 per cent increase — compared with the same period last year, primarily because of high June prices in Kenya.
The report said the grain was smuggled through the Namanga and Isebania borders.
Late last year Tanzania said it had an excess of three million tonnes of cereals, and that it exported almost half of that to neighbouring countries with the remainder stored in its strategic reserves.
In the past few months, Kenya was hit by a severe maize shortage leading to a subsequent rise in the price of flour.
The country imported 30,000 tonnes of maize from Mexico, via South Africa, in an effort to reduce the price of maize flour, which had reached a high of $1.8 for a 2kg pack.
Due to the high demand at the time, consumers were limited to buying just two 2kg packs of maize flour at retail outlets.
With the current increase of maize supply, the government announced plans to end the subsidy programme, allowing market forces to dictate the price of flour.
Kenya’s maize production volumes fell from a high of 3.6 million tonnes in 2012 to 1.83 million tonnes last year, mostly due to insufficient rainfall.
Bujumbura remains the region’s most expensive market for maize, trading at $63.80 for a 90kg bag, data from Ratin shows.
More than 1.5 million people in Burundi are in dire need of food assistance, according to the a report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation.