The government has endorsed the importation of additional 500,000 tonnes of white duty-free maize and 500,000 tonnes of rice to cushion consumers against the high cost of the staples due to acute shortage.
Another 500,000 tonnes of yellow maize, 250,000 tonnes of soya bean meal and 150,000 tonnes of soya bean, among other consignments, will arrive in the country between March and August 6.
In a Kenya Gazette notice, National Treasury and Economic Planning Cabinet Secretary Njuguna Ndung’u said the imported grains must meet specified health and international standards.
“The imported white maize shall have a moisture content not exceeding 13.5 per cent and aflatoxin levels shall not exceed 10 parts per billion (ppb) as provided by the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) and the Department of Public Health of the Ministry of Health,” stated the notice.
The price of maize has hit Sh6,200 per 90-kilogramme bag. The imports will be accompanied by a certificate of conformity issued by Kebs. Whereas the government wants the imported maize to sell at Sh4,200 per 90-kilogramme bag, millers have set tough conditions, including having market forces of supply and demand determine the prices and payment of last year’s Sh2.6 million subsidy arrears.
Most millers have suspended operations and sent their workers home as part of cost-cutting measures due to an acute shortage of maize to sustain their crushing capacity.
“We currently have zero stock and expect the government to come up with measures that will sustain a steady flow of the commodity and address the high prices of flour,” said Ken Nyaga, the United Grain Millers Association chairman, on the phone.
The price of flour has shot to above Sh200 up from Sh180 for a two-kilogramme packet following a sharp rise in the cost of maize. The planned importation of 500,000 tonnes of yellow maize follows the docking of 42,464 tonnes of yellow maize from the Port of Odesa in Ukraine last Sunday.
The millers have petitioned the government to put in place measures that will cushion consumers from the high cost of flour.
Their recommendations include allowing yellow maize to be used for human consumption.
But CS Ndung’u, in the latest Gazette notice, stated that the 500,000 tonnes of yellow maize will be used to manufacture animal feed only. “The imported yellow maize shall have a moisture content not exceeding 14.5 per cent and its aflatoxin levels shall not exceed 10 ppb as provided for under the laws of Kenya and shall be used for the manufacture of animal feeds only.”
The Ministry of Agriculture early this year allowed traders to import 900,000 tonnes of duty-free white maize and 600,000 tonnes of duty-free milled maize from last to August. But millers have been reluctant to import the maize because of skyrocketing prices in the international market caused by declined yields.
But in a fresh move aimed at addressing an impending maize crisis, Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture and Livestock Development Mithika Linturi has allowed the importation of 500,000 tonnes of white Grade 1 milled rice as an alternative source of starch to cushion consumers from high food prices. The imported rice that is expected to land before August 6 is expected to meet international and national food standards and be accompanied by a certificate of conformity issued by the Kebs.
The government has also allowed the importation of 1,600 tonnes of assorted protein concentrates, 30,000 tonnes of food additives, 7,500 tonnes of enzymes and 37,500 tonnes of premix ingredients.
The latest global food index (December 2022) by the Food and Agriculture Organisation indicates an international rise in maize and rice prices by 6.2 per cent due to tighter availability of the commodities and strong demand in Asian exporting countries.