KENYA – Data by Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) has revealed that rice purchases reached a new record during the first half of 2023 surpassing the volumes shipped in during the 12 months of 2022.

KNBS reported that traders ordered 702,249 metric tonnes of rice, a 118.31 percent jump over 321,670 tonnes in the same period last year.

In Kenya, rice is the 3rd consumed cereal behind corn and wheat. However, it is also the least-produced grass, a situation that maintains dependence on the international market to cover consumption needs.

The volumes ordered from foreign countries in the six months were 24,138 tonnes more than 678,110 tonnes in the whole of 2022, according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) data.

This came at a time when the Ruto administration allowed traders to import milled rice and maize tax-free, as part of the strategies adopted to avert the food crisis following poor crop season in the prior year

The increased orders for rice saw expenditure by traders rocket 150.12 percent to Sh39.71 billion (US$267M) in the half-year period.

About two-thirds of that, nearly Sh27 billion (US$181), was spent in the April-June period when some 464,755.50 tonnes were ordered largely from Pakistan and India after Tanzania restricted exports of grains.

Analysis of the data shows a tonne of imported rice was valued at Sh56,549.03 (US$380) on average in the review period, a growth of 14.57 percent over the first half of 2022.

The increased stocks were largely helped by a duty-free window opened by the Ministry of Agriculture which allowed traders to import 600,0000 tonnes and 900,0000 tonnes of maize between February and August.

In June, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) revised its forecast for Kenya’s rice imports, increasing it by 42% to account for higher-than-expected purchases stimulated by the duty-free policy.

According to USDA, rice imports are expected to be 850,000 metric tons, compared with an earlier estimate in May of 600, 000 tons with most imports expected to be of Indian rice.

The upward revision was attributed to consumption which has surpassed production levels coupled with the government’s approval to import 600,000 tonnes of rice duty-free to cushion consumers against the high cost of the staples is driving this uptick in demand.

The country produces between 100,000 and 130,000 tonnes of milled rice while demand is around 1 million tonnes.