KENYA – Kenya’s maize imports have declined despite the government granting importers four months to bring in maize from outside COMESA and EAC duty-free in order to stabilize maize flour prices.
According to the Food and Nutrition Security Report for June by the Ministry of Agriculture, millers attribute the reduction to low supplies in the global market coupled with reduced local demand on account of low consumer purchasing power.
“It is noted that although the government gave a duty-free import window for maize, very little has been imported by the legible millers and traders as they report inadequate global supplies, higher freight and insurance costs as well as the shortage of the dollar, the ministry stated in the report.
Further, the report indicated that barely one-third of the desired imports had landed in the country by the end of June, ahead of the closure of the duty-free import window next month adding that imported maize arriving at Mombasa is also slightly more expensive compared to local supplies.
Moreover, the bulk of imports has come from the region as opposed to being sourced from outside the East African Community and Comesa as earlier expected.
The average price of maize grain in the country has continued to increase despite the duty-free importation of maize snuffing hopes for cheaper maize flour supplies in the short run.
In concern, Ken Nyaga, chairman of the United Grain Millers Association (UGMA) stated that while there was an increase in maize imports in June from 329,530 bags recorded in May, all the imports originated from the East Africa Community countries led by Tanzania which might diverse their export channel affecting the country.
“We have been buying maize from Tanzania but if they get another country wanting to buy their maize, they will use global prices and that will affect us indirectly,” said Nyaga,
Nonetheless, the government projects the maize balance sheet to have a surplus of 13.2 million bags by the end of September 2023 based on carryover stocks of 5.4 million bags and an estimated 0.9 million bags which is to be imported by the private sector from the region and outside of COMESA.
In addition, the July/August harvest is projected at 19.6 million bags from the forecasted production as of June.
However, with Russia pulling out of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, the global supply of grain is expected to escalate a move that is likely to lead to price increments of cereals.