Duty-free maize imports call attracts 250 traders


Agriculture Cabinet Secretary, Mithika Linturi at a past function on January 12, 2023. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NMG

At least 250 traders have applied for import licences to bring in maize under the duty-free window as they seek to cash in on the waiver issued by the government.

The document seen by the Business Daily shows that the application to the Ministry of Agriculture was made between December 16-30, even as just a handful of millers requested to bring in the produce.

The document indicates that just 22 millers have made a formal requisition to the ministry to be allowed to ship in the commodity in the next seven months.

Millers now want the government to prioritise them before licensing the traders to ensure that the processors do not miss out on allocation.

“The priority should go to millers before anyone else is allocated. We are the ones doing the processing,” said Rajan Shah, chief executive at Capwell Industries.

The government has opened a window for the importation of at least 10 million bags of maize starting February 6, to ease the runaway cost of flour that has remained high for the last couple of months with a two-kilo packet hitting Sh200.

However, millers are concerned that licensing more traders could lead to costly maize as the business people would want to make a markup.

The government is yet to issue guidelines on the importation, which will include the allocation of quotas.

Agriculture PS Harsama Kerrow said they are currently in the process of issuing the guidelines, pointing out that the gazette not on those who would have been issued with permits will be gazette next week.

“We are currently processing the application and we are going to issue the permits soon,” said Mr Kerrow in an interview with the Business Daily.

Millers sought to know how much maize will each be allowed to import and whether it will include genetically modified (GMO) varieties.

According to processors, it takes at least 45 days for a ship to dock at the Mombasa port after they make their orders and the current delays in issuing clarity mean that the earliest the maize can get to the country is March.

Millers say there is limited white maize in the world market currently as most stocks that are available globally are GMO.

The Kenyan Peasants League — a lobby group representing peasant farmers moved to court in November and successfully challenged the decision to import GMO maize.

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