KENYA- Kenyan maize meal consumers may have to diversify to other starch sources as traders fail to secure maize imports from the overseas market on the back of high international prices.

The Business Daily has reported that traders who were given licenses to import 10 million of duty-free white maize have lamented their incapability to import the commodity at the government-restricted price of Sh4,200 for a 90-kilogram bag.

According to the traders, a tonne of maize at the international market has topped US$420 (KES54,978), translating to KES6,000 for a 90-kilo bag when it lands in the country, putting traders at a crossroads over importation.

In addition, several countries have rebuffed maize supply requests from Kenya, making it harder for East Africa’s biggest economy to secure the quantity it needs to plug the shortage of the staple

The government had entered into a memorandum of understanding with the traders last month to have them commit to import a 90-kilo bag of the produce at Sh4,200 before they would be issued with import permits

However, millers opted out of imports citing that it would be difficult to get maize at that price, given the shortage of non-Genetically Modified maize and a weakening shilling

The hope was rekindled recently when 42,464 tonnes of maize was expected in the country, but it was later established that the consignment was of yellow produce and not the sought-after white maize.

Addressing the parliament, Cereal Millers Association said that there is no cheap maize all over the world right now from the scouting that they have done as millers

On a sideline session, Agriculture Ministry Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi told the MPs that the country is facing difficulties in sourcing maize as some countries had refused to sell their crop for fear of shortage

Towards seeking alternatives

Meanwhile, with local supply almost drying up and the ongoing uncertainty in maize import, Linturi has urged Kenyan consumers to consider diversifying their energy source from the available starch sources among them rice and potatoes.

Appearing before the House Committee on Agriculture and Livestock, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi told MPs that his ministry has been facing challenges in accessing maize imports from food reserves of other countries

The CS revealed that so far they had imported 1,305 metric tonnes of maize and 43,173 tonnes of rice in the country asking farmers who are still hoarding maize to release the commodity in the market

However, the ministry assured Kenyans that the situation is short-term as it is scouting for alternatives to lower the cost of flour which currently stands at KES 200 per 2kilogarm packet.

In addition, the government is also trying to combat maize shortage in the future through a raft of measures including fertilizer subsidies for farmers, seed distribution, and the recent attempt to revive the Galana-Kulalu irrigation scheme by partnering with private investors

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