Ship carrying 10,000 tonnes of maize yet to be offloaded as government agencies wait for greenlight

The ship is docked at the port of Mombasa.

Photo credit: Wachira Mwangi | Nation Media Group

One week after a ship carrying 10,000 tonnes of maize imported from Mozambique, the commodity is yet to be offloaded with ship being anchored at the port of Mombasa as Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi has ordered the ministry of Trade, Investment and Industry to stop the current plans to import maize into the country.

MV African Merlin which arrived into the country Monday last week by yesterday, it was yet to be allocated a berth to offload the commodity as sources say, there is push and pull between government agencies to clear the cargo.

According to senior official at Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), experts at the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis), are analyzing the maize imported by the World Food Programme that is suspected to be Genetically Modified Organisms. 

 “We have asked Kephis who are experts to ascertain whether it is GMO. As Kenya Ports Authority, we cannot tell whether its GMO or not but World Foods Program confirmed that it is not GMO. KPA, we have handled a ship carrying maize WFP imported the maize,” said a senior official at KPA. 

 Last week, different agencies handling the maize which docked at the port of Mombasa distanced themselves from the consignment with very scanty information being shared on the cargo.

 Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria said if the farmers continue withholding the maize, the government will import GMO maize to cushion people from hunger.

CS Kuria notified the country that the government would allow for the importation of GMOs into the country duty-free for 6 months and said that the gazette notice was to be released this week and when the ship docked, it created an atmosphere of uncertainty.

But over the weekend, Mudavadi disagreed with CS Kuria by ordering the ministry of trade, investment and industry to stop the current plans to import maize into the country, plans that were Kick-started by CS Kuria recently. 

Speaking in Lamu, Mudavadi said that the importation of maize should stop until the ministry of agriculture takes stock of the current grain harvest in the country so as to know if there will be a maize deficit before planning to import.

Further, Mudavadi has said that the duty to transport maize will be transferred from the trade, investment and industry docket and taken to a the agriculture docket that is led by CS Mithika Linturi.

"The issue of importation maize should be guided by a survey by the Ministry of Agriculture to find out if there is a deficit of the grains, that is a policy (importation of maize) that must be well canvassed. It is the Agriculture docket that will issue an importation order after looking at the food situation in the county," Mudavadi directed.

The previous duty-free import window that had been opened in June closed on November 1. However, millers and traders were unable to ship in the produce on the back of existing high international prices. 

 The government has said it will allow the importation of 10 million bags in the next six months to address the current shortage of the product, which has kept the price of flour at an all-time high.

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