Treasury opens gates for duty-free imports of rice

Casual workers arrange bags of rice at Ahero Irrigation Scheme rice storage facility on January 21, 2021. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The Treasury has opened a six-month window for the importation of 500,000 tonnes of milled rice to cover a shortage of the commodity.

Traders will be allowed to import Grade 1 milled rice duty-free until November 30 to supplement local production and ease pressure on prices of the staple food.

“In light of the notification of the rice shortage in the country and the need to have an alternative source of starch by the Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture and Livestock Development, the Cabinet Secretary for the National Treasury and Economic Planning directs that 500,000 tonnes of white Grade 1 milled rice may be imported into the country duty-free on or before November 30, 2024,” Treasury Cabinet Secretary Njuguna Ndung’u said in a notice.

The import duty rate for rice without the waiver is 75 percent or $345 (Sh 44,950.84) per tonne, whichever is higher.

“Further, as notified by the Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture and Livestock Development that 34,614.15 tonnes of white grade 1 milled rice imported pursuant to Gazette Notice No.14094 of 2023, but delayed due to logistical challenges and has already landed and has been verified at the port of Mombasa, the Cabinet Secretary for National Treasury and Economic Planning directs that the 34,614.5 tonnes of white Grade 1 milled rice be cleared duty-free,” the CS added in the May 29 communication.

Rice output in Kenya has been hit by adverse weather that affected the main Mwea-producing areas since 2022. For instance, in 2022 an acute drought affected water levels at the canals at the Mwea Irrigation Scheme.

This year, heavy flooding has also affected many parts of Mwea as well as the Kano rice fields in western Kenya which is likely to affect production.

Market data by the Agriculture Ministry shows that Kenya imports the bulk of its rice from Asia and Tanzania to meet local consumption demand. The country averagely produces between 100,000 and 130,000 tonnes of milled rice while demand is around one million tonnes. The difference is bridged through imports.

In 2023, for instance, Kenya imported 937,098 tonnes of rice, according to the Economic Survey, 2024.

In Kenya, rice is mainly produced under irrigation by small-scale farmers in counties such as Kirinyaga (Mwea), Busia (Bunyala), Tana River (Tana Delta, Bura), Kwale (Vanga cluster), Kisumu (Ahero, West Kano, South West Kano, smallholder irrigation schemes within Kano plains), Migori (Lower Kuja), Homa Bay (Maugo, Oluch Kimira), Siaya (Anyiko), and Taita Taveta (Kimorigho, Buluma).

Rice is also grown under rain-fed conditions in Busia, Bungoma, Kakamega, Kwale, Kilifi, Meru, Isiolo, Migori, Baringo, and Murang’a.

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