KENYA – A bulk carrier has docked at the port of Mombasa with Russian wheat of undisclosed capacity that may herald the era of lower wheat prices in the country.

Another consignment from Russia is also expected to dock into the country on February 12, 2023, further enhancing the supply of the local commodity in the local market.

The move is welcomed by local millers who have been battling wheat shortages affecting their operations as well as retail prices following the onset of the Ukraine-Russia war that cut off the supply chain.

Kenya remains a net importer of wheat, with a consumption of about 900,000 tonnes per year, against an annual wheat production of approximately 350,000 tonnes.

The Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) of Kenya attributes the meager local production to periods of drought, high cost of inputs as well as quelea bird infestations a situation exacerbated by recent erratic and unreliable weather patterns

According to AFA data, millers shipped at least 1.5 million 90-kilo bags of wheat in 2022 to fill up dwindling stocks, following low production.

Last year, local wheat production was lower at 1.2 million 90 kg bags (108,000 tons) compared to 1.8 million (162,000 tons) the previous season, which is still lower than the average output of 350,000 tons.

The AFA is therefore hopeful that the shipment will help cool down prices of wheat flour that now retails at about Sh200 per 2-kilogram packet.

Maize prices to remain high

Maize prices in Kenya have shot up sharply on the back of delays in the importation of duty-free maize coupled with competition for the commodity between millers and humanitarian agencies.

At the moment, the price of a 90-kilo bag of maize has increased to Sh5,000 after it had dropped to a low of Sh4,400 last week as farmers rushed to sell their produce ahead of imports that were meant to start this month.

However, it is believed the prices have spiraled due to stiff competition between millers and the World Food Programme (WFP) which is buying the produce at Sh5,100 for a 90-kilo bag due to the humanitarian’s program.

The WFP has contracted the National Cereals and Produce Board to buy them maize meant for humanitarian assistance and it has offered a price higher than what is prevailing in the market.

“We are now competing for the little that is in the market, this, coupled with failure to effect imports has seen the cost of maize go up,” said Ken Nyagah, chairman United Millers Association.

Processors now argue that it is a matter of days before the cost of flour, which had dropped to an average of Sh180 for a two-kilo packet currently, goes back to Sh200

The Ministry of Agriculture is yet to gazette the name of millers and traders who will be allowed to ship in maize in the country as the window for duty-free imports opened, making the situation even more uncertain.

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