Kenya will next month waive duty to allow millers to import maize from Uganda and Tanzania.
Kenyan traders imported more than 77,500 tonnes of maize worth $31.2 million since January from its neighbours. This is the highest amount of imports in the past five years as drought and the effects of the fall armyworm manifest in the country’s staple.
Outgoing Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett said that the government would, through the Foreign Affairs Ministry, formalise importation of maize.
“We are expecting the supply of maize to start declining. Importation will help to stabilise this. We are a maize-deficit country and hope to ease this pressure through importation from our neighbours.
“Currently, our traders are getting the produce from Uganda but have been unable to keep up with the demand,” Mr Bett said.
So far, Kenya, through the National Cereals and Produce Board, has spent more than $70 million to buy 2.1 million bags of maize (180,000 tonnes), as it sought to replenish the strategic grain reserve.
This maize is expected to last until the end of this month. The board is buying a 90kg bag at $32 and is expected to purchase a further 575,000 bags (51,750 tonnes) this month.
However, these imports seem to be insufficient as the country’s monthly consumption is 300,000 tonnes.
“We are seeking the produce from Uganda, as the country has maize available. However, we scaled down our daily production from a high of 11,000kg milled per day to under 3,000kg,” said Emmanuel Mwaro, a manager at Western Deluxe, a flour miller.
Data from the Regional Agricultural Trade Intelligence Network (Ratin) shows that since the start of this year, Kenya has imported more than 10,000 tonnes of maize from Tanzania through the Namanga and Isebania border points and a further 66,900 tonnes from Uganda through the Busia, Mutukula and Malaba points.
Common Market Protocol
Kenyan traders have taken advantage of the low prices in Uganda’s Tororo, Gulu, Masindi and Lira regions to ship in the produce, buying a tonne for as low as $180 per tonne.
“Middlemen are taking advantage of the Common Market Protocol to bring in low-cost maize from neighbouring countries at the expense of our farmers. They get it for as low as $16.5 for a 90kg bag and then blend it with the local produce.
“This is finding its way into NCPB silos which pays $32 for each bag. This puts our farmers at a disadvantage,” said Kenya Farmers Association director Kipkorir arap Menjo.
Central Bank of Kenya data released late last month shows that last November, Uganda became the largest source of goods ordered by Kenyans, with food imports topping the bill.
“We have received a projected yield of 32 million 90kg bags, down from 37.1 million bags and against our projection of 40 million bags. This shortfall was occasioned by the drought and fall armyworm invasion,” Mr Bett said in December last year.
However, Tegemeo Institute, an agricultural think-tank says that the country harvested some 36 million bags of maize last season, down from 45 million the previous season in 2016.
Kenya has in the past two years suffered an acute shortage of grain following a poor harvest occasioned by an erratic rainfall pattern during the planting season.