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State to fast-track importation of cheap Maize

The government has initiated talks with countries in the COMESA region having bumper maize harvests to access cheap maize for the local market.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mr. Peter Munya Thursday said that the new measures the government has put in place to address the shortage of the cereal grain will be fast tracked in order to facilitate millers and traders import maize.

“We are in talks with the governments of Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia on how to address logistical challenges and low volumes being imported by the value chain players.

Speaking at the Horticultural Crops Directorate after a groundbreaking ceremony for a hot water treatment facility at JKIA, the CS said the on-going negotiations will complement the duty waiver that the government announced last week for imported maize.

Last week, Munya announced a three-month duty waiver for all imported maize as part of measures to curb skyrocketing food prices consumers are grappling with in the market.

He noted that the Maize imports from Zambia could get to the country in the coming two weeks since the discussions are at an advanced stage.

“I am positive that Kenya will be able to import and get maize from Zambia as the trucking of maize takes between seven and 10 days to reach Kenya,” he added.

“Besides duty waiver on maize imports, the Government is putting in other additional measures to see to it that the price of Unga comes down. We are discussing logistics and a ring-fencing of quantities that would satisfy our demand here,” Munya said.

He confirmed that dealers are already buying maize from these countries but added there is no guarantee of adequate quantities when one is doing it individually and hence the reason the government has come on board to negotiate with these countries to get a quota allocation that will satisfy our Kenyan market.

“The guarantee of the volumes we need will not be there if we do not have the interventions we are doing as Government to Government. Zambia has a bumper harvest and we want to be able to facilitate the millers and traders to buy that maize,” said Munya.

The CS assured that the Government has been monitoring the food situation, to ensure that both the farmers and consumers are not hurting. “We are balancing between ensuring the farmers earn reasonable money but also ensuring the consumer is not disadvantaged. It is a balancing act,” Munya said.

The CS also confirmed that globally maize prices are high due to low supplies, and added if millers are able to bring in cheaper maize, this would have an impact on the price and help bring down the price of maize which is currently at between Sh6, 500 to Sh7, 000 for a 90kg bag.

He explained that the current prices in the market is because of the  drought  that has been brought about by three failed seasons and also the disruptions occasioned by the desert locusts and the challenge of Covid-19 impact experienced not only in the country but also in the region.

“We have been having severe droughts in the region. For the last three seasons, Kenya has not been able to reach the annual harvest of between 35-40 million bags of maize that we always do. Tanzania too has had minimal harvest that is why they are also controlling their export to Kenya to make sure they have their own,” the CS said.

The new measures that the government has put in place come in the wake of numerous complaints about low maize supplies, logistical challenges experienced by millers and traders while importing.

The duty waiver granted by the government will last until the end of October and Munya said that by then more maize will have been harvested locally from the South Rift region.

Non-availability of Maize has seen a 2-kg packet of Unga costing between Sh200 and Sh250 in local supermarkets. The increase has also led to a high cost of production leading to closure of operations by some manufacturers.

By Wangari Ndirangu

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