Local rice millers protest lockout from duty-free imports window


The Kenya Association of Manufacturers chairman,  Rajan Shah. FILE PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NMG

Local rice millers have protested their lockout from the importation of the commodity under the duty-free window, terming the move as discriminatory.

The Agriculture Ministry has allowed traders to import at least 600,000 tonnes of duty-free rice between February and August to tame the high cost of food in the country.

The government has only issued shipping permits to traders.

Agriculture PS Harsama Kerrow says it is not an exclusive right for millers to bring in the produce and that traders too should be allowed to ship in the grain.

“What we have permitted to be shipped in is milled rice and any trader who meets the requirement can bring it because it is rice that is ready for market and does not need milling again,” said Mr Kerrow.

This means that rice millers who had applied for the importation of rice have been locked out and if they choose to import, they will have to pay the 35 percent duty.

“The priority should have been given to rice millers as a way of supporting our businesses that have a direct impact on consumers,” said Rajan Shah, chief executive of Capwell Industries whose firm makes Renee rice.

Mr Rajan said they had applied for the importation of both rice and maize but officials at the Agriculture ministry have informed them that only traders have been allowed to ship in the grain.

“When we requested the status of our application, we were informed that the allocation had been exhausted and that it was only issued to traders,” he said.

The price of the commodity is expected to come down by at least 35 percent when the imports start streaming in, according to processors.

Kenya imports at least 80 percent of the total rice that is consumed locally to bridge the huge shortfall in production with traders and millers paying a 35 percent duty on imported produce.

The National Irrigation Authority this year commissioned the Sh8.2 billion Thiba Dam in Kirinyaga County to expand the size of land under the cover of rice at the Mwea Irrigation Scheme.

The dam will put an additional 10,000 acres under rice on top of the current 25,000 acres, coming as a major boost for local production at the Mwea Irrigation Scheme.

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