To import maize or not? State not sure

Government says 12 million bags needed but Parliament and farmers say country has enough

In Summary

• Ministry in tug of war with the Strategic Food Reserve over maize imports.

• Farmers have questioned whether country needs to import 12.5 million bags.

Maize stocked in Kitale NCPB depot
FULL STORE: Maize stocked in Kitale NCPB depot
Image: FILE

The country does not need to import maize, Parliament has told the government.

The National Assembly Agriculture committee says the country has enough stock.

Chairman Adan Haji (Mandera South) said there is no justification whatsoever for importing maize. He spoke to the Star on Monday.

“We have enough stocks with the National Cereals and Produce Board, millers, farmers and traders. The worst times are over. We are remaining with a month or two to the start our harvests and the stocks will be able to cover that,” he said.

Haji advised the Cabinet not to import maize this year. 

Haji said the team has summoned Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri and the Strategic Food Reserve board on Wednesday to shed more light on the issue.

But Agriculture Chief Administrative Secretary Andrew Tuimur said the current maize stocks will last the country until end of this month or mid next month.

“The next harvest will be available in the market in October so we have a window of three months from August, September and October,” he said.

Tuimur said the 12.5 million bags were arrived at on the basis that Kenyans consume 4.2 million bags per month.

“This means for the three months, we will need 12.5 million bags. We may need to import if the government approves, but it is not that we said we must import. And in any case, it is not the government that will import but the private sector,” Tuimur said.

He told farmers who have maize to release it into the market and sell it to millers who are offering a good price of over Sh3,000 per 90kg bag.

“If farmers release what they have, and because millers are buying maize from traders in Tanzania, then we don’t have to import any maize. It is as simple as that. We will source from our neighbours Tanzania and Uganda. Mexico will be the last resort if everything else fails,” the CAS said.

Tuimur, however, said it is difficult to determine the exact quantity of maize that farmers are hoarding until registration is completed.

Kipkorir Menjo, the director of Kenya Farmers Association, said importation is not a bad idea but should be based on deficit.

“What the government is talking about is highly exaggerated,” he said.

Menjo said early this year the Agriculture CS had told Kenyans there was a lot of maize.

“When the government opened NCPB stores for farmers to deliver maize, we were only allowed to deliver a maximum of 400 bags per farmer and told to offload the rest into the market since NCPB did not have enough storage capacity,” he said.

“For sure, the stores were ​full. So if this was the case, why should we be importing an amount that is so high. Some stores in the North Rift are still full and millers have not cleared everything they bought from NCPB.”

He said the Ministry of Agriculture should first do an audit and tell Kenyans exactly what is available in the stores.

“When they get the data and add what farmers are hoarding, then they will know exactly what is available for the country as we wait for the long rains harvest which is only two months away. I will not be surprised that we many have a deficit of only two million bags and not the 12 or 19 million bags being reported,” Menjo said.