The government will not import duty-free maize until February next year, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi has told Parliament.
The importation window will be opened on February 1, 2023, and will remain in place until April 31, 2023.
Registered millers will, however, continue to import wheat under the prevailing 10 per cent duty remission scheme and rice at the prevailing duty rates to complement maize supplies.
Mr Linturi said the Ministry of Agriculture has prepared a Cabinet memorandum seeking authorisation to import 900,000 tonnes or 10 million bags of maize duty-free.
This comes just a few days after Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria said farmers are hoarding 20 million bags of maize from this season’s main crop season.
Mr Kuria had announced the government will be opening up a duty-free window for maize imports to bridge the deficit.
The Trade Cabinet Secretary said the government will allow traders to ship in at least 10 million bags of GMO and non-GMO maize in the next six months.
“The government plans to allow maize imports from the region. The ministry has prepared a Cabinet memo to import maize duty-free to evade hunger,” Mr Linturi said in a statement read on the floor of Parliament by Majority leader Kimani Ichung’wah.
Pokot South MP David Pkosing had last week demanded a statement on the planned importation of 10 million bags of maize at a time farmers in the grain basket counties are harvesting.
Mr Linturi said the duty-free maize importation window will last for three months from February 1, 2023.
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He said the 10 million bags of maize to be imported will be white maize. The Agriculture Ministry said the country imports four to six million bags of maize annually.
Most of the maize is imported by the private sector and relief agencies. Mr Linturi said statistics indicate that the country will have 14.8 million surplus bags by January once the long rains crop is harvested.