Kenya may have to allow importation of four million bags of duty-free maize to cover for an expected deficit following a decline in supplies from Uganda.
The National Food and Nutrition Balance Security Report for March prepared by the Ministry of Agriculture says the poor supply from the neighbouring country and delayed short rains could make it necessary for Kenya to import maize.
The move is expected to bridge the deficit and check the high prices of the staple in the country in order to cushion consumers.
“Poor regional imports or delayed rains may warrant the government to allow the private sector to import at least four million bags duty free maize outside the EAC and Comesa region,” reads the report.
“Farmers in Uganda are hoarding their maize stock in anticipation of higher prices and we are getting less quantities from there.”
There have been talks by millers that most of the maize from Uganda is now heading to South Sudan because of the good prices that it is fetching there as opposed to exporting to Kenya.
The report shows that Kenya at the end of May will have 3.02 million bags of maize, which can last for a month, implying that the imports will have to cover for June ahead of the harvesting season of short rain crop in July.
The ministry notes that if the regional imports remain normal and rains come in time, there will be no cause for alarm on the food status in the country.
Millers are struggling with low supplies of the staple in the market with the price of maize hitting a high of Sh3,500 for a 90 kilogramme bag, a move that has seen the cost of a two kilo packet of flour jump to a high of Sh125 on average from Sh108 in December.
Millers have already warned that a decline in volumes from Uganda and Tanzania will add pressure on prices and want the government to make a quick decision on imports before it is too late.
“If there is need to import, then it should be done now when there are readily available stocks in the world market,” said an official of the Cereal Millers Association.