KENYA – The government has issued licenses to private traders to facilitate the importation of 10 million bags (about 900 metric tonnes) of duty-free maize into to the country.

Philip Harsame, the Agriculture Principal Secretary said that already licenses have been issued to 20 traders to import white maize and 50 to import yellow maize to reduce the retail price of maize flour and animal feeds.

The government had earlier planned to import the maize towards the end of last year but was forced to postpone the plans to February this year to give more time to farmers to harvest and sell their maize at competitive prices.  

With the importation window now open, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi, is confident that  consignments of duty free maize will start docking at the port of Mombasa as from the second week of February.

Maize production accounts for 85% of total cereal production in Kenya and provides the country’s staple meal.

However, the country has been battling with the impacts of low production following the most severe drought in 40 years which saw the price of maize flour hit the highest.

In addition, with the scrapping of the maize flour subsidy program last year, the price of maize flour doubled to about KES230 (US$1.85) for a 2kg packet.

In a recent monetary policy committee meeting by the Central Bank of Kenya, it was projected that the supply of food items, mainly maize, rice, and wheat is set to increase in the coming months on account of ongoing harvests and the expected duty-free imports.

However, local millers have lamented the move by the government to open the window for all traders and not give them priority in duty-free maize imports as was noted when the deal was drafted.

“We have not been consulted on how we will engage when it comes to duty-free maize imports,” said Ken Nyaga, United Grain Millers Association chairman.

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