FOOD SECURITY

Maize shortage likely to affect flour prices - millers

A 2kg packet of unga may increase from Sh110 to Sh130 this Christmas

In Summary

• A 90 kg bag of maize in Nairobi is selling at between Sh3,000 to Sh3,300 and Sh2,700 to Sh2,800 in Eldoret.

• Millers say prices may not stabilize even as we go into 2022 and the cost of maize flour is likely to keep increasing and may have reached to a high of Sh135 by January. 

Maize flour in a supermarket shelf.
Maize flour in a supermarket shelf.
Image: FILE

The price of maize flour is likely to go up during the Christmas and New Year festive period due to a maize shortage in Kenya.

Millers say they have inadequate stocks to last the country until the end of December.  

Agriculture PS Hamadi Boga said the projected short rains maize harvest of 10 million bags is likely to realise only five million bags. He however said the situation is not dire.

“Kenyans should not be alarmed as we had factored this in our food balance sheet two months ago. We will be okay until March next year and after that we will make provision for maize importation,”the PS reassured.

But Ken Nyaga, chairman of the United Grain Millers Association (UGMA) which brings together small scale millers said the shortage is likely to affect maize flour prices in the coming week.

A two kilo packet of maize flour is currently retailing at an average of Sh110 but could rise to Sh130 in the next one to two weeks.

Nyaga said large scale maize farmers are hoarding their produce anticipating a price increase in January.

“Currently, a 90 kg bag of maize in Nairobi is selling at between Sh3,000 to Sh3,300 and Sh2,700 to Sh2,800 in Eldoret. Prices may not stabilise even as we go into 2022 and the cost of maize flour is likely to keep increasing and may have reached a high of Sh135 by January,” he said.

Nyaga said the imports from Tanzania and Uganda are inadequate adding that Kenya is likely to experience a major shortage by next year due to a number of factors including drought in parts of the country.

According to a recent Food and Nutrition Security report released by the Ministry of Agriculture, show that the estimated domestic maize stock as October was 11.3 million bags.

This is as a result of harvests in July and August from the Arid and Semi Arid Lands and parts of high and medium rainfall areas.

Beans stock were at 4.1 million bags and wheat stocks at 2.6 million bags. Most of the maize and bean stock was with farmers while traders and millers held wheat stocks, the report showed.

Timothy Njagi, a senior researcher at Tegemeo Institute confirmed that Kenyans may have to dig deeper into their pockets to buy food in the next two months.  

He warned that food prices may go up from January due to a combination of issues, among them drought, depressed short rains, international food supply shock and protection policies by a number of countries. 

“One of the reasons is the high cost of food globally due to Covid-19 pandemic which led to low production while some manufactures cut down on production of some inputs hence the high prices being experienced on inputs such as fertiliser,” said Njagi.

The price of a 50 kilo  bag of DAP fertiliser went up from Sh3, 000 last season to between Sh4,500 to Sh5, 000 this season.

He said some countries like China are stock piling food like maize and wheat in anticipation of a shortage next year.

Njagi added that Russia which is a net exporter of wheat to Kenya banned exportation of the commodity in November.

“We import 75 percent of the wheat we consume in the country from Russia and Ukraine. With the ban of wheat exports in Russsia, wheat prices are likely to start going up between December and January,” said Njagi.

He said there is need for close monitoring of the food situation into the country as it enters 2022 which is n election year.