Maize flour to remain costly on expensive imports

Workers arrange maize flour packets at a supermarket in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Expensive imports have dampened hopes for cheaper flour as the cost of transporting maize from the source markets has shot by 150 percent.

Transporters are charging the equivalent of Sh1,500 for a single bag of maize transported from either Malawi or Zambia from Sh600 previously, pushing the landing cost of a 90-kilo bag to Sh6,000 when it lands in Nairobi.

The price of flour in the country has been on an upward trend since the beginning of the year and this week it crossed the Sh200 mark, a first in Kenya’s history as the shortage of the staple food persisted.

Animal feeds manufacturers, who are also importing the same standard maize for feeds say the high cost has curtailed most of their members from shipping in the produce.

“Maize is relatively cheaper in Zambia and Malawi but when you factor in the transport cost, it becomes costly,” said John Gathogo, the publicity secretary, Kenya Feeds Manufacturers.

The high cost of transport is attributed to expensive fuel and the fact that trucks have to return empty to their respective countries.

Kenya was targeting to get cheap maize outside of the East African Community (EAC) region when it opened up the imports last month to address the current high cost of flour.

In Uasin Gishu, Eldoret Grain Millers has advised farmers that it is buying maize at Sh6,500 for a 90-kilo bag in order to attract any available local stocks from farmers.

Millers and feed manufacturers do not have alternatives other than to import expensive grain in order to keep their operations running as there are no local stocks available in the country.

“We do not have local maize in supply at all and the only alternative at the moment is importing, which are not as cheap as we had thought because of charges involved in shipping,” said Ken Nyagah, chairperson of United Grain Millers Association.

The Ministry of Agriculture opened an import window last month for produce coming in outside of the EAC region, however, millers have been unable to ship in the grain due to the high global cost of the commodity occasioned by the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.

The high cost of imported maize means that consumers will have to contend with expensive flour until the next harvesting season in October, as the short rain crop, which normally comes to the market around July did not perform well on the back of drought.

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