Millers, importers struggling to access non-GMO white maize globally

Kenyans will have to wait longer than expected for prices to go down

In Summary

Kenyans will have to wit longer than expected for white, non-|GMO maize to go  down from the current rice of Sh230 o Sh188 for a 2kg packet.

This is because of an acute worldwide shortage. More GMO and yellow maize is being produced globally than non-GMO white maize.

How corn is genetically modified.
GMO CORN: How corn is genetically modified.

Millers and importers are struggling to access white non-GMO maize due to a severe global maize shortage.

This means Kenyans will have to wait longer than expected for the price of maize flour to go down from the current price of Sh230 to Sh188 for a two-kilo packet.

This is despite a seven-day ultimatum by Agriculture CS Mithika Linturi for millers and grain importers holding duty-free licences to show proof of trade documents to ascertain they have begun importing or risk revocation of their licences.

On Tuesday last week, Linturi pointed out the under performance by the millers and importers in importing of maize and rice.

He said less than 10 percent of the commodities have been imported since December 2022 when they were granted import duty waivers by the Government.

Linturi said so far only 90,621 metric tonnes of maize and 95,381 metric tonnes of rice have landed in the country.

In December last year, the Government through the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development granted millers and grain importers a duty waiver of 1.4 metic tonnes of maize and 1.1 metic tonnes of rice.

This was to lower the prices of maize flour and rice.

Eastern Africa Grain Council CEO Gerald Masila said more GMO maize is being produced globally than non-GMO.

“This is the reason maize importers are not able to access white non-GMO maize globally to help reduce the cost of maize flour,” he told the Star during an interview on Wednesday.

Masila noted that sourcing of white maize in the market, particularly non-GMO maize, is a challenge because there is a serious shortage in the world.

He explained that this is because globally, more GMO and yellow maize being produced globally than non-GMO white maize.

“Importers are only sourcing for the non-GMO white maize which is difficult to get. The availability is low and even when you find it, the prices are premium. This is why it has not been possible to bring down the cost of maize through duty free imports,” Masila said, adding that the African region produces more than it consumes.

While meeting at Kilimo House with millers and grain importers, the CS said there will be no extension of the window of importation.

“No maize and rice will be imported after August 2023 when the duty waiver permits expire. This is because local maize farmers are expected to harvest their yields,” Linturi said.

He, however, offered millers and grain importers who have already imported their duty-free consignments an additional allocation to import the commodities under the duty-free arrangement.

Linturi warned unscrupulous millers and traders who are alleged to have imported maize and rice under the tax waiver quota and attempted to re-export the same grains to neigbouring countries.

He said they are under investigation and if found guilty will face the full extent of the law.

“Already a government multi-agency team has impounded some grains that were being re-exported to neighbouring countries since they were imported under the duty-free arrangement to boost efforts by the government to lower food prices in the country,” he said.

Masila said in order to address issues to do with regulations, logistics and scaling up, there is need to invest in large-scale commercial production.

“The country must be able to invest in large-scale commercial production of maize. Members at EAGC are ready to deploy resources to invest to produce maize in the available land through partnership arrangements,” he said.

He said there is no framework on how the private sector can engage with the government to invest in large-scale commercial production of grains.

“We have been told millions of acres of land is available from what is in GalanaKulalu to other land that is sitting with various Government agencies and ministries that can be deployed and utilised for food production,” Masila said.

He said there is no mechanism in which the private sector can be able to access that land purely for production without buying but just to get into partnership.

This will help in doing commercial production of grain and bring on board smallholder farmers to become our growers for the large-scale commercial producers.

“That is the only way we can be able to increase production, reduce cost of production, mechanise and address the gap that we are having,” Masila said.

(Edited by V. Graham)

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