Kenya's maize imports hit five-year high


The Mv.IVS Pinehurst docking at the port of Mombasa still offloading the 29,900 metric tonnes of imported maize from Mexico. PHOTO | LABAN WALLOGA | NMG

Kenya’s maize imports in the first nine months of 2022 more than doubled to 519,611.30 tonnes, equivalent to 5.7 million 90-kilogram bags, following a drop in the production of the cereal due to drought.

In a similar period a year earlier, the country imported 214,100.9 tonnes of maize or 2,378,899 bags, figures from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) show.

This is the highest maize import since 2017 with the country facing a shortage of the staple which has led to a spike in retail prices of maize flour pushing up retail prices of maize flour and 5.1 million people in need of food relief.

President William Ruto did away with a maize subsidy programme that had been put in place by his predecessor and which would have seen a two-kilogramme of maize flour retail at Sh100.

Instead, Dr Ruto’s administration started another one on fertiliser that was aimed at bringing down the cost of production.

The state has already set aside Sh5.3 billion for the fertiliser subsidy to be used in the planting seasons in April and October.

Dr Ruto’s administration has however retained the waiver on import duty and levies on maize shipped from outside the country, although the unavailability of the cereal in the region and the high transport costs has complicated things.

“There were notable increases in the value of imported maize; and medicinal and pharmaceutical products from Sh7 billion and Sh21.4 billion in the third quarter of 2021 to Sh10.9 billion and Sh24.7 billion, respectively,” said KNBS in its Quarterly Balance of Payment for the third quarter last year.

In the period between July and September last, the country imported 368,037.2 tonnes of maize valued at Sh10.9 billion.

In a similar period in 2021, the country imported 258,593.5 tonnes of the staple which is used for preparing Ugali, a popular dish in most Kenyan households.

For the first time in Kenya, the wholesale price of maize crossed the Sh6,000 mark at a time farmers are harvesting the main crop for the year.

The rising cost has seen the government open a window for the importation of 10 million bags of maize to stem the rising cost of flour.

Whereas the selling price is impressive for farmers, the total production in the ongoing crop season is expected to drop at least three million to 34 million bags.

This implies that the available stocks expected this year will last for nine months and Kenya will have to rely on cross-border imports to meet the deficit.

The decline will add pressure on available food and is likely to worsen the situation given that the traditional source markets for Kenya-Uganda and Tanzania have found alternative markets for their crop in South Sudan and the United Arab Emirates where they fetch a good price.

Prices of maize flour have risen sharply to retail at around Sh200 in major retail stores in the country.

The weatherman has already forecast failed short rains for October-November-December, pointing to another round of failed crops in the next cycle of production.

PAYE Tax Calculator

Note: The results are not exact but very close to the actual.