EAST AFRICA – The East African region could have as much as 240,000 metric tonnes of maize on the market in the second half of the year, according to the East African Cross-Border Trade Bulletin released in July 2023.

According to the report released by The Market Analysis Sub-group of the Food Security and Nutrition Working Group, this would not be enough to meet projected demand further escalating the food shortage problem the region is facing.

The shortage is attributed to a combination of factors – including erratic food supply in the region, high prices due to shortfalls, high demand in importing countries, and poor policies.

 Kenya and Congo would be at a competitive advantage as a tradable surplus within the region will likely direct more flows to Kenya and the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where the purchasing power and prices are relatively higher.

“The significance of the supply interchange between Uganda and Tanzania depends on the production and, in addition, the export policy of Tanzania, whereby, when domestic prices rise due to high domestic and regional demand, Tanzania reduces exports through various tools,” read the report.

In addition, the bulletin passes the blame to the 2022 drought that raised prices of grains as demand exceeded supply.

The Food Security and Nutrition Working Group monitors the informal cross-border trade of 88 food commodities and livestock in Eastern Africa to quantify the impact of cross-border trade on regional food security.

According to the report, in the first quarter of 2023, when it became known that Kenya could not acquire enough supplies from overseas due to higher prices and currency depreciation, cross-border trade was exceptionally high.

During the said period, Kenya’s raised maize imports saw the general cross-border trade for the grain rise by 120 percent indicating the benefits of growing local produce as well as easier policy on movement of goods.

From January to March an estimated 380,000 metric tonnes of maize grain was traded in the region, with Uganda accounting for 96 percent of the exports, while Kenya and Tanzania imported 86 percent and seven percent of the commodity, respectively.

Maize prices in East Africa have been rising since mid-2021. The report attributes this to high demand caused by the waiver of Covid-19 control measures.

With high input and fuel costs still a reality,  the report projects prices to remain above average until June 2024.

Deficit-producing countries of Kenya, South Sudan, Somalia, Rwanda, and Burundi are expected to import more maize from Uganda, Tanzania, and Ethiopia, to meet local demand.

Ruto maintains Kenya is food secure

President William Ruto announced that Kenya is on course to meet national demand for maize, and could even have a surplus. According to Ruto, the country is expected to harvest 44 million bags, compared to last year’s 32 million bags.

Kipkorir arap Menjo, a director at the Kenya Farmers Association,  however, remained skeptical and said the country remains food insecure because the government failed to set aside funds budget to cater for grain reserves.

“The trouble is that we have post-harvest and market challenges,” said Menjo, who is based in the North Rift, Kenya’s food basket.

Mahboub Maalim, special adviser on the hunger crisis at the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent told The EastAfrican that the problem for the region is a combination of local and external forces, making it complex.

This is unprecedented. It has never been recorded that so many countries in Africa are experiencing hunger,” he said in an interview on the sidelines of a media café in Nairobi hosted by the IFRC on food security.

The bulletin, however, maintained that Tanzania is expected to remain the primary source of rice to Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, and Uganda.