Kenya in talks with Tanzania to unblock Zambian maize

Wednesday June 28 2017
maize imports

Workers load maize at the port of Mombasa. Kenya seeks to import the grain from Zambia. PHOTO | LABAN WALOGA


Nairobi is talking with Dar es Salaam to open its border so that maize from Zambia can pass through and ease the current shortage.

Tanzania has closed its borders restricting the movement of grains in a move aimed at ensuring that food crops are not exported from the country to protect its limited stocks.

Director of Crops in Kenya's Ministry of Agriculture Johnson Irungu says the talks are being spearheaded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Zambia has agreed to sell to Kenya 55,000 tonnes of white maize, but with the closure of the border, the commodity may have to use a longer route through Rwanda and Uganda.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in talks with Tanzania to allow maize coming in from Zambia to pass through their country,” said Dr Irungu.

He noted that some grains from Uganda have started coming for the first time since the beginning of the year.


A document from the ministry seen by the Business Daily indicates that 111,000 bags of maize have been exported to Kenya via Tororo in eastern Uganda.

Kenya is suffering an acute shortage of grain following poor harvest last year resulting from erratic rains experienced during the planting season in 2016.

The country normally imports grain from Uganda and Tanzania to bridge the deficit.

Tanzania has restricted export of maize while Uganda did not have a good harvest last season, with the little available finding its way to South Sudan where it fetches a premium.


Apart from these two countries, Kenya also imports maize from Malawi and Zambia. The two countries had also banned export of the grain but Zambia has just lifted the ban.

READ: Food prices to rise as EA braces for poor harvest

The shortage compelled the Nairobi to allow duty free imports of the grain outside the East African Community states, under a subsidy programme. 

According to the Agriculture ministry, 1.2 million bags of maize has so far been sold to millers under the subsidised scheme with 3.2 million bags expected before the end of next month.