Kenya has suspended tax on maize imports to boost shipments from outside the East African Community (EAC) amid a shortage of the commodity in the domestic market.
Maize is a staple food in the country and is used to make a variety of meals.
Kenya imports maize from the EAC – mostly Uganda and Tanzania – duty-free but shipments from countries that are not members of the EAC or the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) are subject to a 50 percent tariff.
National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani has now waived import fees on white non-genetically modified organism (GMO) maize of up to 540,000 tonnes until August 6.
Mr Yatani said he had been notified by his Agriculture counterpart Peter Munya that Kenya could be hit with a maize shortage unless the government acted to allow more imports of the grain to plug the supply deficit.
“It is notified for the general information of the public that the Cabinet Secretary for the National Treasury, in consequence of the notification of an impending maize crisis in the country by the CS for Agriculture, a waiver of import duty has been granted for the importation of not more than 540,000 metric tonnes of white non-GMO maize grain,” said Mr Yatani in a gazette notice yesterday.
“The waiver of import duty shall apply to white non-GMO maize imported into Kenya on or before August 6, 2022,” he said.
Kenya is a net importer of maize but has traditionally restricted purchases to cushion local maize growers but at a cost to consumers who are forced to pay a higher cost for the cereal.
But maize prices have shot up over the past few months due to a biting local shortage caused by poor production during the previous season.
Maize production declined by 12.8 percent from 42.1 million bags in 2020 to 36.7 million bags in 2021 after a prolonged drought hit agriculturally productive regions for an extended period last year.
This has seen maize flour prices soar by 15 percent over the past year, with data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) showing the cost of a two-kilogramme packet of sifted maize flour cost an average of Sh134 in April up from Sh117 during the same month last year.
A spot check by Nation on Thursday shows that a two-kilogramme pack of the Soko brand retails at between Sh139 and Sh154 at the top supermarket chains.