Gov’t grants waiver for maize imports

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The government has granted a waiver of import duty capped at 540,000 metric tonnes of Maize to cereal traders to import the grain.

This follows a warning by the Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya about an impending maize crisis in the country.

In a gazette notice published Friday May 20th 2022, Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani said the waiver is limited only to white non- genetically-modified organism (non-GMO) maize grain.

“The waiver of import duty shall apply to white non-GMO maize imported into Kenya on or before the 6th August, 2022,” the gazette notice reads.

Yatani, in the same gazette notice further says that each imported consignment will have to comply with other conditions apart from being non-GMO. The maize shall have a moisture content not exceeding 13.5 per cent as provided for under the laws of Kenya.

In addition, the notice states that the aflatoxin levels in each consignment of maize shall also not exceed ten parts per billion (ppb) in accordance with the laws of Kenya and Kenyan Standards.

Yatani directed that the imported maize shall be accompanied by a certificate of conformity issued and implemented by the Kenya Bureau of Standards and shall meet all other legal requirements under the relevant laws of Kenya.

Agriculture CS Munya last week said the opening up of the three-month importation window will avert the looming shortage of maize and offer a reprieve to consumers even as prices of flour have been going through the roof.

He had also asked farmers who are hoarding maize to start selling it and added that the Ministry is carrying out an assessment of the maize that is currently available in the country to be able to guide on importation

Maize flour has recently hit an all-time high in the market with some brands of the two-kilogram packet hitting a high of between Sh134 to Sh140.

Last month experts in the maize sector had warned of a looming maize crisis in the coming months even as high prices of maize started to show.

Speaking to KNA, Gerald Masila of East African Grain Council (EAGC) said that maize prices have increased from around Sh3, 600 for a 90kg bag of maize in January to the current price of Sh4, 200.

“We expect maize from Uganda and Tanzania from around July to August, but the main crop from Kenya will start getting to the depots from October-November up to December because it takes time to dry the maize from the time of harvest,” Masila said.

Kennedy Nyaga, chairman of the United Grain Millers Association, an umbrella of small-scale millers in the country, confirmed that they have been facing a shortage of Maize supplies.

“We have been facing hard times and if there was no intervention, prices of unga could have continued going up in the coming weeks,” Nyaga said.

Maize is one of the main crops produced in the country and a staple food for Kenyans.

According to the Kenya Food Security Steering Group (KFSSG) outlook update for February to September this year, the maize harvest in the marginal agricultural areas is 45-50 per cent of the five-year national maize production average.

The update indicates there has been widespread below average crop production in the marginal agricultural areas, with crop failure in Kilifi, Kwale, Taita Taveta, and Tharaka Nithi, where maize production was 1–7 per cent of the five-year average.

By Wangari Ndirangu

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