KENYA – Kenyan maize meal consumers may further dip deeper into their pockets as millers fallout with the government over maize import prices.
Kenya has been experiencing an acute maize shortage due to drought. The high cost of fertilizers also raised the cost of production prompting farmers to raise the price of their produce.
The result has been historically high maize prices which the government is trying to combat through a raft of measures including duty-free maize and fertilizer subsidies for farmers.
With millers being locked out of the duty-free window, consumers may be forced to wait longer for prices of maize meal, which is a staple in the county, to go down.
As reported by the Daily business news, millers have refused to sign a memorandum of understanding with the government, committing that the grain they ship would land in the country at Sh4,200 for a 90-kilo bag.
In December, the government allowed millers and traders to import 10 million bags of maize duty-free to ease the shortage in the country that has seen the price of maize flour remain high with a two-kilo packet retailing at KES230.
At least 250 traders and 22 millers had applied for import licenses to bring in maize under the duty-free window as of December last year.
However, the Ministry of Agriculture has said that the millers refused to commit, compelling the government to issue at least 50 permits to traders.
Defending the action, Harsama Kellow, the agriculture Principal Secretary said that the imports were meant to lower the cost of flour and that the maize to be shipped in has to land at a pre-determined price to have a positive impact on the staple
“Our officers have interacted with the millers regarding pricing and they have said that they are uncomfortable with the Sh4,200 that we want them to import” he revealed.
As a government, he said, they have a right to impose conditions on imports and millers have to adhere to such terms.
However, millers argue that the cost of maize on the international market is high because of a shortage occasioned by Russia-Ukraine war that has disrupted the supply of grains, including maize and wheat.
“It is very difficult to get maize that will land in Kenya at that price that the government wants, there is a very serious shortage of grain in the market,” said Ken Nyaga, chairman United Grain Millers Association
The state of maize business in the country has been in jeopardy as recently, millers had delays in the importation of duty-free maize coupled with competition for the commodity between millers and humanitarian agencies further affecting retail prices.
Millers had also lamented that farmers were selling the commodity to the World Food Programme, who were buying maize for their school feeding program and were giving them better returns than the local millers.
Mr. Nyaga, in conclusion, said that the Government’s order might not favor millers since maize that will land in the country by the end of this month will cost upward of KES5,600 for a 90-kilo bag.