Politics and policy
Millers and farmers lock horns again over importation of grain
Posted Thursday, May 31 2012 at 20:22
Millers and cereal growers are once again divided over whether duty-free imports of maize should be allowed in the face of a looming shortage caused by a disease outbreak in one of the key growing regions.
A six-month window for duty-free imports ended last December but millers have renewed calls for another offer following the disease that has destroyed thousands of acres of maize in the South Rift.
“We normally depend on maize from South Rift to boost our stocks in June/July as which runs us all the way to October when North Rift starts harvesting,” said Mr Diamond Lalji, chairman of millers association.
Mr Lalji said there was insufficient maize in the country contrary to assurances by Agriculture Sally Kosgei.
Mr Lalji said the millers’ stock had been dwindling even after the price of maize was increased.
A 90 kilogramme bag is now selling at Sh3,600 up from Sh 3,000, while the price of the two-kilogramme maize flour packet is Sh122, up from Sh92 last month.
The Cereal Growers Association (CGA), however, said duty-free imports would distort maize prices in the future unless the actual deficit was established first.
“The most important thing is to determine the number of bags that has to be imported and not to allow millers to import as they want,” CGA chairman Timothy Busienei said.
He added that importing maize would force the price of maize to go down during the coming harvesting season.
Mr Busienei called for intensified research to determine the cause of the disease that has forced many farmers in the region to cut down their crop to curb its spread.
Mr Lalji said the government should take mitigating measures to end the perennial problem of maize shortage in the country.
“One of the key measures that should be taken is to make use of the huge land that can be put under irrigation in order to boost maize production in the country,” said Mr Lalji.
He said that if irrigation was given priority, the county would be a net exporter of maize.