Tanzania has imposed a new requirement on grain traders to get an export permit before shipping maize out of the country, in a policy shift that has locked already bought stocks of grain by Kenyan millers at the border.
Kenyan millers say the new requirement could paralyse their operations at a time scarcity of grain and other costs of production have conspired to push the price of flour towards Ksh200 ($1.70) for a two-kilo packet.
Millers say the requirement was not there before after the two countries resolved their trade dispute last year.
This has seen hundreds of trucks stuck at the Namanga border post, cutting the supply of grain to Kenya given that Tanzania is the only source of maize where processors are getting grain from at the moment after local stocks fizzled out.
“Our tracks have been stopped from proceeding to Kenya and we are currently incurring more cost on delay charges even as our milling plants have grounded to a halt for lack of stock to process,” said John Gathogo, the publicity secretary of animal feeds manufacturers.
Grain Belt Millers Association chairperson Kipnge’tich Mutai said over 400 trucks are stuck at the border following a standoff between the traders and the authorities.
“Although there is some maize in Tanzania, the stringent conditions for obtaining an export permit are making it hard for our members to import the grains into the country,” said Mr Mutai.
Kenya is mainly relying on maize stocks from Tanzania to meet the rising demand for flour after the supply in the local market dwindled. Most stocks from Uganda are heading to South Sudan because of the high prices there.
Tanzanian and Ugandan maize supplements the available stocks given that the country does not produce enough to meet the annual requirements.
The price of flour in supermarkets hit a high of Ksh186 ($1.58) from Ksh150 ($1.28) last week, marking one of the steepest weekly rises in the market.
This has been occasioned by the high cost of maize with a 90-kilogramme bag now selling at Ksh5,500 ($46.55) from Ksh5,000 ($42.59) last week, a move that will hurt consumers.
The government last month waved 50 percent duty levied on maize imported outside the East African region and allowed millers and traders to ship in 540,000 tonnes to check the current high prices of flour.
$1 = Ksh117.40