KENYA- The agriculture ministry has once again said the price of maize meal will drop in 10 days as 150,000 metric tonnes of maize imports are likely to arrive in Mombasa within the next fortnight.
“We have 150,000 tonnes of maize that will be landing in Mombasa in the next 10 days, which will lower the cost of flour to Kes140 for a two-kilo packet,” said the Agriculture Cabinet Secretary, Mithika Linturi.
According to CS Linturi, the expected consignment would lower the price of a two-kilo packet to Sh140.
However, this is the third time the government promised cheap flour in one month with only one miller, Grain Industries Limited, having significantly cut the cost of the staple to Kes159.
Therefore, Kenyans have a reason to be skeptical despite the news of the incoming maize consignment.
Additionally, there were claims by a section of millers that flour selling at a lower price is genetically modified (GM) maize, which CS Linturi has already refuted, saying the State did not authorize shipping of the biotech produce.
“Kenya Bureau of Standards can detect GMOs and they are conducting tests on all imports. The specifications that we issued for imports were clear that we needed white non-GMO maize, so there is no way someone could have brought in this type,” he said.
Drought, coupled with a high cost of fertilizers, raised the cost of production and prompted farmers to raise the price of their produce, making maize flour particularly expensive and scarce. This acute maize shortage resulted in maize meal retailing at between Kes200 to Kes230 for a 2-kilogram (Kg) packet.
However, the Ministry of Agriculture allowed the importation of up to 10 million tonnes of maize to supplement the local supplies and bring the cost of maize meal down.
Mr. Linturi said he had revoked the licenses of unnamed millers after they failed to ship in the commodity since issued with the permit three months ago.
Additionally, last month, the minister gave millers a seven-day ultimatum ending in April to indicate that they would import maize, failure to which their license would be revoked.
The government had entered into a memorandum of understanding with all the importers to ship in the produce at not more than Kes4,200 for a 90-kilogram bag, which was one of the conditions before the import permits were issued.
Millers had argued that a metric tonne of maize lands in Mombasa at Kes4,700 for a 90-kilo bag, meaning that if they sell at the government’s desired price, they would not break even.
Despite the skepticism around possible price reductions, Kenyans are observing marginal drops in the prices of brands such as Jogoo, Soko, and Dola to below Kes200 in response to the stiff competition by Ajab flour, selling at Kes159 for a two-kilo packet in major retail stores.