WHEAT CRISIS

Millers to wait longer before importing wheat from India

This is due to a ban put after a fungal disease outbreak in the Asian country.

In Summary

•This follows a ban that was put by Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS) on the importation of wheat from India due to a fungal disease.

•The regulatory body was concerned that the disease could affect local production if it gets into the country.  

Packets of wheat flour in a supermarket.
SHORTAGE: Packets of wheat flour in a supermarket.
Image: FILE

Kenyan millers will have to wait until the regulatory body gives them a clean bill of health before starting to import wheat from India.

This follows a ban that was put by Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS) on the importation of wheat from India due to a fungal disease.

The regulatory body was concerned that the disease could affect local production if it gets into the country.  

Theophilus Mutui, KEPHIS managing director said KEPHIS could send a team to India to inspect and certify that wheat from the Asian country is free from pests before any importation is allowed.

"We are in discussion with the Ministry of Agriculture and Cereal Millers Association on the possibility of KEPHIS inspectors going to India to inspect areas wheat is grown to certify that it is pest free," he said.

Speaking to the Star on phone on Friday, Mutui said they are yet to send their officers to the Asian country but they are in discussion on how to address the matter soonest time possible.

“India is not the only country where millers can source wheat from, but it could provide a cheaper option for the commodity. But unless we are sure that the pest is not there, we cannot allow it to get into the country,” he said.  

In April, millers had asked the Government to do a risk analysis to help in decision-making on lifting the ban and allowing the importation of wheat from India.

Paloma Fernades, CEO of Cereal Millers Association said millers cannot access wheat from Russia and Ukraine due to the ongoing crisis.

Russia and Ukraine supply 33 percent of the world’s wheat, with Kenya getting nearly 66 percent of its supplier from the two countries.

“Indian wheat is significantly cheaper than the rest of the world selling at a discount of about USD 50-80 dollars cheaper than world wheat which is at almost over 500 dollars per ton," said Fernades.   

"Currently, Nigeria, South Africa, Oman, Egypt and Israel have approached India to supply wheat to meet their demand. Tanzania and Uganda have also been allowed to purchase wheat from India. Unfortunately, due to the ban, we are unable to import from India yet our neighbours in Uganda and Tanzania will be able to import and there they will be more competitive than us in the market in terms of wheat.”

According to the May- Food Security Monitoring report released by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), consumers in some African countries including Kenya, Egypt, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria and Cameroon are beginning to diversify their grain diets as global wheat prices continue to surge. 

“There is a growing wheat substitution with local rice, manioc flour and sorghum as wheat prices have increased by more than 40 percent since the global food and commodity price crisis," the report showed.

"In addition, and as wheat supplies from the Black Sea continue to fall, African countries are beginning to turn to Argentina as an alternative source of wheat.” 

The Global Trade Tracker reports that Cote d'Ivoire, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal and South Africa are set to receive 147,200 metric tons of wheat from Argentina. This is a 33 percent increase from last year.

“This has been further necessitated by the recent wheat export ban by India, which had emerged as an alternative source for wheat supplies,"the food security monitoring report stated.

"The India ban has been occasioned by a severe heatwave that hit the country mid-March 2022 leading to a decrease in wheat production forecasts.” 

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