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Regional lobby, USAid eye cheap Ethiopia maize to ease shortage

A shopper in a supermarket’s  maize flour section . PHOTO | FILE
A shopper in a supermarket’s maize flour section . PHOTO | FILE 

A regional grain body and a US aid agency are working with millers and traders to import cheap maize from Ethiopia to ease the current shortage of the commodity that has hit the country.

East African Grain Council (EAGC) and the USAID trade hub want to link Kenyan buyers to Ethiopian sellers to import the grain into the country.

Last week, EAGC executive director Gerald Masila was in Ethiopia to discuss the trade deal while the Ethiopian delegation will be in the country this week for negotiation with millers.

Ethiopia has a surplus of 1.5 million bags that they are willing to sell to Kenya.

“Ethiopia had a bumper crop and they are ready to export the surplus, we have been in talks with the USAID to link traders and millers into buying this maize,” said Mr Masila.

He said they have negotiated with the sellers in Ethiopia, who have agreed to sell their maize at Sh2,500 per bag. The produce is, however, expected to land in Nairobi at between Sh3,000 and Sh3,400 for a 90 kilogramme bag.

Currently, millers are buying a 90 kilogramme bag at Sh3,700.

The Kenyan delegation, which will include government officials, is expected to visit Ethiopia on March 7 to seal the deal. It is expected that the State will waive the 50 per cent Common External Tariff that is imposed on grain imported outside of East African Community member states.

The EAGC and USAID roles will be to link buyers to sellers and negotiation of tax exemption on maize to be imported.

High prices of maize have had a negative impact on consumers with the price of a two-kilogramme packet of flour rising steadily in the last one month and currently retailing at a five-year high of Sh120.

The situation, according to millers, will get out of hand if plans by the government to bring in imports from Mexico continue to drag along.

Kenya normally imports grain from Uganda and Tanzania to bridge the deficit in production. Tanzania has restricted export of maize while Uganda did not register a good crop in the last season, with the little that is available finding its way to South Sudan where it fetches a good price.

Apart from these two countries, Kenya also imports maize from Malawi and Zambia. However, these two countries have registered a poor crop too in the last two seasons owing to a dry spell that cut their production.

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