KENYA – Kenya’s maize imports from Tanzania declined by 41.78% to 412,755 tonnes in the marketing year 20222/2023, from 708,978 tonnes in MY 2021/2022 following export restrictions imposed by the Tanzanian government.

A new report by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) shows that the restrictions pushed traders to source more maize from non-traditional sources such as Zambia and South Africa compensating for reduced imports from Tanzania.

Tanzania is a major exporter of maize and rice, not only to Kenya but also to other EAC bloc states such as DR Congo, Burundi and South Sudan.

However, in early 2023, Dar es Salaam imposed guidelines on trade in grains between the country and partners in the seven-nation East African Community bloc, in a protectionist move to prevent food inflation in the country.

Under the new rules, traders were required to establish registered offices in Dar es Salaam to obtain export licenses and tax clearance certificates for maize and other grains.

These measures significantly curtailed maize imports into Kenya, traditionally sourced from Tanzania.

As a result, imports from Zambia increased eightfold to 88,050 tonnes from 10,728 tonnes while imports from South Africa increased by 2,218.94 percent to 64,513 tonnes from 2,782 tonnes.

Imports from Uganda increased by 1,215.7 percent to 34,590 tonnes, from 2,629 tonnes.

Traders argue that Tanzania’s actions contradict the EAC Common Market Protocol, which mandates the free movement of goods, services, capital, and labour within the bloc.

In Feb 2024, data from the Central Bank of Kenya reported that Kenya’s imports from Tanzania fell by KES10.23 billion (US$70M) in 2023, a 19.2% drop on the back of renewed trade barriers which largely hit the flow of grains.

The data showed that traders trucked in goods worth KES43.05 billion (US$295M) from Tanzania compared with a record KES 53.28 billion (US$365M) in 2022.

The drop was the fastest slide since 2016 (seven years) when the administration of the then-late John Magufuli adopted protectionist policies when he first took power.

Despite these challenges, Kenya’s maize production is projected to increase, with 2023 seeing a production of 61 million bags, attributed to government measures and improved climatic conditions.

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