Kenya to import 540,000 tonnes of maize to avert looming shortage

The government said recently that some farmers were hoarding their produce to drive up prices. [File, Standard]

Kenya has opened a three-month window to import up to 540,000 metric tonnes of white maize to avoid a shortage even as flour prices soar.

National Treasury CS Ukur Yatani has endorsed the decision to allow imports of maize from outside the East African Community to offer consumers a reprieve.

“As a result of notification of an impending maize crisis in the country by the Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, Fisheries and Cooperatives, import duty relief has been granted for the import of up to 540,000 metric tons of genetically modified organism (GMO) non-grain white corn,” Mr. Yatani said in a Friday Gazette notice.

“The import duty exemption will apply to non-GMO white maize imported into Kenya on or before August 6, 2022.”

Agriculture CSO Peter Munya had said on Monday that imports would be limited to what is needed by those who would be allowed to avoid the shipment of excessive stocks by unscrupulous traders.

The price of a 90 kilo sack of maize fell from around 2,800 shillings in December to around 4,500 shillings in March due to reduced supply.

Duty-free imports should ease pressure on prices given that the harvest season is about three months away.

The government recently said some farmers were hoarding their produce to drive up prices, but the duty-free window looks set to force them to release their stock now.

Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows that maize production in the country has fallen by 12.8%, from 42.1 million bags in 2020 to 36.7 million bags last year due to erratic rains.

The decline in local production has seen the volume of imported corn nearly double, from 273,500 metric tons in 2020 to 486,500,000 metric tons in 2021.

KNBS notes that the value of marketed maize decreased by 16.7% from 8.2 billion shillings in 2020 to 6.9 billion shillings in 2021 due to lower maize production during the period. at the exam.

The Treasury window for importing up to 540,000 tonnes is therefore expected to set a new record for reliance on products from outside the country in a single year since 2017.

Kenya 2017 imported 1.33 million tonnes of maize in what turned out to be a controversial window, with local farmers alleging sabotage by forces who wanted to profit from collapsing local production.

A tonne of imported maize cost Kenya 28,260 shillings last year, an increase from 27,279 shillings the previous year and was the highest since 2017 when it was 30,321 shillings.

A waiver on maize imports adds to the series of state interventions as it tackles the rising cost of living seen in the country.

The state eased the pain of inflation with interventions on electricity and fuel as well as animal and chicken feed.

Official data shows the cost of living hit a seven-month high of 6.74% in April, from 5.6% in March, putting a strain on household budgets.

The prices of items like cooking oil, cooking gas, cornmeal, rice and fuel have all risen in an environment where incomes have not kept up with inflation and have therefore earned people inflation-adjusted pay cuts.

Eyes are now on Parliament ahead of the debate on the Finance Bill 2022 which aims to introduce or increase taxes on different products including ice cream, juices, bottled drinking water, jewellery, cosmetics and beauty products.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 has complicated the recovery of economies from the supply chain disruptions that were triggered by Covid-19 in 2020.

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