LOOMING SHORTAGE

State unsure how much maize to import

Imports are meant to stabilise prices of maize flour currently at between Sh122 to Sh129 per two-kilo packet

In Summary
  • Agriculture CS Kiunjuri said country will import 12.5 million bags of maize
  • But Strategic Food Reserve says only four to six million bags should be imported
Officials inspect maize stocks at the NCPB depot in Eldoret
Officials inspect maize stocks at the NCPB depot in Eldoret
Image: MATHEWS NDANYI

The government is not clear on the number of bags of maize the country should import next month.

The Ministry of Agriculture and the Strategic Food Reserve have given conflicting information.

The imports are meant to stabilise prices of maize flour which are currently at between Sh122 to Sh129 per two-kilo packet.

In June, Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri said the country will be importing 12.5 million bags of maize.

 

Out of this, 10 million bags of white maize will be for human consumption and 2.5 bags of yellow maize.

But Noah Wekesa, the Strategic Food Reserve board chair, said on Thursday that the board advised the ministry through a memo to only import four to six million bags of white maize.

"We want to ensure that only the necessary amounts of maize are brought to the country. This will ensure that imported maize will not collide with harvests from farmers in the North Rift," Wekesa said.

“We do not want to have a repeat of last year where we had an influx of imported maize in the country. The impact of that was that the price of maize from farmers plunged to something like Sh1, 600 to Sh1, 800 per 90kg bags.”

Wekesa spoke during the first meeting between SFR and millers.

The meeting was aimed at discussing challenges millers face so that farmers and consumers get value for their money.

In February, the government opened up stores at the National Cereal and Produce Board for millers to buy two million bags of maize at Sh2,300 per bag.

This was supposed to help stabilise prices which had reached a high of Sh3, 500 per 90kg bag.

Millers should have collected all the maize by this month but Wekesa said only 1.7 million bags have so far been cleared.

“It is clear that quite a number of them have not collected and it is possible that those who have not collected may not have the money to buy the maize. So we still have one million of that which is not collected. In total, we have about three million bags of maize at the NCPB stores,” he said.

Wekesa gave millers one week to clear the maize they had requested and what will not have been collected after that will be reallocated to other millers in the second phase.

He said in total, there are three million bags of maize at the NCPB stores between now and end of July.

“The months of July and August are critical but from September, maize harvests from South Rift will start coming in. Between now and the end of July we have three million bags of maize and I don’t see any problem with feeding Kenyans between now and end of July,” Wekesa said.