Kenyan authorities remain tight-lipped a month after banning Tanzanian and Ugandan maize imports into the country.
This past week, sources at the Namanga border crossing say Tanzania has blocked all transit trucks from entering the country from the Kenyan side.
A spot check at the crossing on Wednesday found stranded maize trucks on the Tanzanian side, while more than 20 trucks on the Kenyan side had not been cleared to cross into Tanzania.
This is despite a clarification two weeks ago by Kenya’s Agriculture Minister Peter Munya that the government had not banned the importation of maize from the two neighbours. Since Mr Munya made his remarks, no other Kenyan official has responded or offered an explanation on the matter.
Kenyan truck driver John Kahanya, who spoke to The EastAfrican, said: “There has been no processing of transit documents for the past seven days. We have had no official communication from our counterparts in Tanzania.”
He is on transit to Zimbabwe with cargo from Carbacid.
Maize is an emotive issue in Kenya, with farmers and the government at loggerheads over prices, and allowing imports that flood the market with cheap produce.
Before the government allowed maize purchasing to be done by the private sector Warehouse Receipting Council, its predecessor, the National Cereals and Produce Board, had also been accused of imposing strict moisture content regulations and aflatoxin alerts, using them to lock out local maize from the market.
And as the country heads into an election year in 2022, maize producers are considered a big constituency that affects political outcomes in their regions. As their welfare comes into play, it is affecting the regional maize trade.
Currently, Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta is the chair of the EAC, and Kenya’s EAC and Regional Development Cabinet Secretary Adan Mohamed is the chair of the Council of Ministers. But for more than a month now, Mr Mohamed has declined to respond to our text messages and calls on the matter.
Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu spoke on the matter during the swearing in of top government officials recently, without mentioning the Kenyan ban.
On maize, the president said she wondered why government officials had not ascertained terms and conditions for farmers to make it possible for them to sell their produce easily.
“It is not enough to leave a farmer who has harvested tonnes of maize to their own devices. You have abandoned farmers even as their produce has been blocked at the border, and the Ministry of Trade is not taking any action. You do not know the challenges facing farmers,” she told the Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Adolf Mkenda and the newly appointed PS Rashid Adam Tamatamah.
She castigated both officials for failing to identify a ready market for Tanzania’s maize, among other goods.
“This year we are expecting bumper harvests and tonnes of produce. We should know how much of our produce is for local consumption and how much is for export. But what and which is our main export market? What are our terms? What is the state of our markets? What do we know about our markets?” President Samia asked.
Two weeks ago, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, in a televised address, called for dialogue and not retaliation with Kenya over the maize issue.