Animal feed millers hardest hit by the war on maize

The maize the animal feed millers got was so little that it had no impact on the cost

In Summary

• Feed millers say the 286, 000 bags of maize released by NCPB is not enough and they are now back to competing with maize flour millers for the little available white maize. 

• The millers say they need 2.5 million bags of yellow maize importaion to cover three months until harvets from South and North Rift start coming in. 

Farmers sorting out maize.
Farmers sorting out maize.
Image: FILE

Animal feed millers are the hardest hit by the war between the Ministry of Agriculture and the Strategic Food Reserve on maize importation.

This could affect the cost of animal feeds, which has remained high due to competition of white maize for human consumption and for making feeds.

Martin Kinoti, the secretary general of the Association of Kenya Feed Manufacturers, said they are suffering, because the maize that was released by SFR through the National Cereals and Produce Board was just a drop in the ocean.

He said the 286, 000 bags of maize that animal feed millers were given at a cost of Sh1, 800 only lasted three weeks to a month.

“We are now back to competing with maize flour millers for the little white maize coming from Tanzania and we are paying Sh3,500 per bag for a bag of white maize. This is keeping feed prices up there. We are always the losers,” Kinoti said.

He spoke to the Star on phone on Friday.

He noted that farmers would have expected the prices to come down, but the maize the animal feed millers got was so little that it had no impact on the cost of feeds.

The millers told the government to allow importation of 2.5 million bags of yellow maize to keep the industry going for the next three months.

“This will have two effects, the yellow maize will land to the country at a cheaper price because in Europe, America and Asia, yellow maize is grown for animals. In general, it will be cheaper then white maize even though it is richer in Vitamin A. The other effect is that millers will stop competing for white maize and that would pass the benefit to the farmer because feed prices would come down,” Kinoti said.

He also urged the government to allow the feed industry to shift from using white maize as a raw material to yellow maize as a longterm solution to ease pressure on white maize.

“We are asking for an arrangement where the animal feed industry is allowed to shift from white maize to yellow maize so that we can be competitive in the international market. This provision must come from the government because an importation outside the Comesa region attracts suspended duty of 50 per cent. This would mean that the National Treasurer would have to issue a circular first before you can import the maize to avoid paying the duty,” he said.

Paloma Fernandes, the Cereal Millers Association CEO, said they are still waiting for the ministry to give a way forward.

“We are still collecting maize from NCPB and there is some maize coming in from Tanzania. There is a tightness in the supply of maize but we are managing,” she said.

In May, SFR released two million bags at a cost of Sh2,300 per bag of maize to millers and so far, only 1.2 million bags have been collected and 760, 000 bags have not been collected. This is  according to SFR chair Noah Wekesa.

Millers are buying maize from traders who are getting maize from Tanzania at between Sh3, 500 to Sh3, 400.

“We are waiting for the government to make a decision since we have already provided our balance sheet. But let me say the situation is not as bad as it was in 2017,” Fernandes said.

A senior government officer who did not want to be mentioned as he is not authorised to comment on the maize issue said part of the delay to import maize is to allow farmers that are still hoarding maize to release it into the market .

“But we still not sure how much is with farmers. We hope in the next days to the end of the month, we will have the maize that Rift Valley MPs claimed on Thursday was with farmers is released,” he said.

The officer said if millers say they are okay with the maize supplies, the government will not need to import.

"Tanzania has about one million bags and Uganda will start harvesting next month. This could cover us until the country's long rains harvest start in October,” he said.