State waives import duty on maize, rice for six months to avert food crisis

MAize import

A farmer delivers his maize at the National Cereals and Produce Board in Elburgon, Molo. The government has waived import duty on maize and rice for six months to ease shortage of cereals in the country.

Photo credit: Pool I Nation Media Group

The government has waived import duty on maize and rice for six months to ease a shortage of cereals to avert a food crisis. 

The Ministry of Agriculture has announced traders will be allowed to import up to 900,000 tonnes of duty-free white maize and 600,000 tonnes of duty-free milled rice from February to August next year to boost the food supply in the country. 

“It is notified for the general information of the public that pursuant to section 112(2) of the East African Community Customs Management Act, 2004 and in consequence of the notification of an impending food crisis in the country by the Ministry of Agriculture,” said the State Department for Crop Development in a notice, “an import waiver will be granted for millers and traders to import a total of 900,000 metric tonnes of white maize grain and 600,000 metric tonnes of milled rice.” 

“(This will) enable the country to have adequate stocks to last until the next harvest from July to August 2023. The duty waiver shall apply to white maize and milled rice imported into the country by August 6, 2023, by millers and traders,” it said. 

Maize prices remain high even as the ongoing harvesting of maize across the country is set to yield about 30 million bags against an annual consumption of approximately 45 million bags.

Kenya’s maize production has fluctuated in the past eight years, with its highest production being in 2018 when it produced 44.6 million bags and the lowest being in 2017 when the country produced 35.4 million bags of grain. 

The local maize production deficit has forced the country to ever rely on imports to address the shortage. 

This follows a similar move in May where the government gave traders and millers a three-month window to import 540,000 tonnes of maize duty-free until August before it was extended for two more months. 

Rice is the third most consumed staple in the country but most of the cereal consumed locally is imported. 

This comes at a time the country is facing a biting food shortage that has raised the cost of living to a five-year high even as the government lifted the ban on the growing and importation of genetically modified (GMO) maize. 

The cost of food has increased by 15.4 percent between November 2021 and November this year, transport costs have grown 11.7 percent, while housing, water, electricity, and gas prices have risen by 6.1 percent during the period.