Kenyan imports from Russia, Ukraine hit Sh51bn


Cargo containers at the port. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Expenditure on imports from Russia and Ukraine climbed nearly fourfold in the first half of the year, official data showed on Thursday, driven largely by increased orders of wheat and maize grains.

Kenyan traders splashed a record-high of nearly Sh50.97 billion on goods from the warring Eastern Europe neighbours, according to data published by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS).

That represented a 369.98 percent jump over Sh10.84 billion in a similar period last year when the Russia-Ukraine war, which started in February 2022, had peaked with key trade routes blocked.

“There was an increase in imports of wheat from the Russian Federation; and wheat and maize from Ukraine, driving the import bill from these two sources,” KNBS analysts stated in the Balance of Payments report for the second quarter of the year.

Imports from Russia were valued at Sh43.30 billion in the six months, a four-fold climb over Sh8.72 billion in the prior year, while Ukraine’s goods into Kenya were worth Sh7.66 billion compared with Sh2.12 billion.

Grain shipments from Ukraine were especially helped by the year-long agreement which allowed the exports from the war-ravaged country via a safe channel through the Black Sea.

The agreement —the Black Sea Grain Initiative — was conceived in July 2022 in Istanbul, Turkey, following a pact involving Turkey, Russia, and the United Nations, which paved the way for the resumption of grain exports via the route.

Kenya, to a considerable extent, relies on the two countries, especially Ukraine, for wheat supplies. The commodity is used to bake food such as bread, chapati, and cakes which form part of daily meals for most households.

The reduction in production and supply of wheat following the continuing war in Ukraine hit the global supply of the commodity last year, pushing global prices through the roof.

Kenya, whose production was hit by a biting drought, experienced record prices for the commodity as a result of the war in Ukraine earlier in the year, exacerbated by export curbs in India.

That prompted Kenya to successfully seek approval from the East African Community’s Council of Ministers to allow Kenya to import wheat at 10 percent duty for a year from July as opposed to the standard 35 percent for the bloc.

The reduced taxes, Treasury Cabinet Secretary Njuguna Ndung’u said on June 15, will “ensure that there is enough wheat to meet local demand, while at the same time protecting wheat farmers from unfair competition from imported wheat”.

“The importation of wheat will be undertaken upon the recommendation by the Ministry of Agriculture who will ensure wheat millers, as a priority, purchase local wheat before they are allowed to import,” Prof Ndung’u said.

Russia’s decision to pull out of the Black Sea Initiative that allowed the export of fertiliser and grains to leave Ukraine ports has raised concerns about renewed price pressures in the fragile global market for wheat.

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