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RESERVES DWINDLING

Government yet to authorise maize imports, says PS

The Strategic Food Reserve board on Thursday last week advised the government to import four to six million bags.

In Summary

• The government wants to import 10 million bags of white maize and 2.5 million bags of yellow maize. 

• It will take 45 to 60 days to import maize to the country due to the logistical challenges. 

Maize stocks at NCPB Eldoret depot
Maize stocks at NCPB Eldoret depot
Image: MATHEWS NDANYI

The government is yet to approve the duty-free importation of maize, Agriculture Principal Secretary Hamadi Boga said yesterday. 

On May 2, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary told millers the importation window would open this month. 

The Strategic Food Reserve board chairman Noah Wekesa on Thursday last week said they had advised the government to import four to six million bags.

But on Tuesday, Rift Valley farmers warned the government against the planned imports claiming they had about six million bags in their stores. 

The farmers urged the government to mop up the grain before importing more.  

“Only the national Treasury and Cabinet can authorise the importation of maize into the country. This has not been done and we are still waiting,” Boga told the Star on phone. 

The PS maintained that the country still needs to import 12.5 million bags - 10 million bags of white and another 2.5 million of yellow maize.

Boga said the recommendations are based on the current food balance sheet.

He, however, said it might be too late to open the 60-day window as it may coincide with the harvest from the South Rift which will be ready in the next two months.

“There are a lot of logistics involved in the process of importation. Early planning is better due to the inefficiency of agricultural systems,” Boga said.

 

Agriculture CAS Andrew Tuimur last week said the country consumes four million bags of maize monthly.

The current maize stock is at three million bags according to the Strategic Food Reserve. 

Wekesa said the government should only import what will be sufficient for the country before the next harvest.

“We do not want to have an influx of imported maize in the country like it was in 2018,” Wekesa said.

Some millers are already importing maize from Tanzania which is selling at between Sh3,000 to Sh3,400.

The National Cereals and Produce Board had opened up the stores for millers to buy maize at Sh2,300.

So far, only 1.7 million bags have been collected, while one million bags have not been cleared. 

SFR gave millers this week to clear the stock that they had paid for before opening the second phase. 

On subsidy fertiliser, Boga said the government is putting in place an elaborate system where farmers will be accessing subsidy fertiliser from farmers supplies shops.

The process is already being implemented in Kwale, Kilifi, Makueini, Kikuyu in Kiambu Counties as a pilot project under the Kenya Cereals Enhancement Programme funded by IFAD, the PS said.

(edited by O. Owino)