Millers have been locked out of maize imports after they refused to sign a memorandum of understanding with the government, committing that the grain they ship in would land in the country at Sh4,200 for a 90-kilo bag.
The Ministry of Agriculture says the millers refused to commit, compelling the government to issue at least 50 permits to traders.
Agriculture Principal Secretary Harsama Kellow said the imports are meant to lower the cost of flour and that the maize to be shipped in has to land at a pre-determined price to have a positive impact on the staple.
“Our officers have interacted with the millers in regard to pricing and they have said that they are uncomfortable with the Sh4,200 that we want them to import at,” said Mr Kellow in an interview with Business Daily.
Mr Kellow said they asked traders if they would import at the price that the government wants and they agreed.
“The aim of these imports is to lower the cost of flour and we cannot allow millers to import maize at any price that they want as this will not meet the government objective,” said the PS.
As a government, he said, they have a right to impose conditions on imports and millers have to adhere to such terms.
Last month millers complained that the government denied them permits and failed to issue clarity on imports, claiming there were plans to lock them out.
The government last December allowed millers and traders to import 10 million bags of maize duty-free to ease the shortage in the country that has seen the price of maize flour remain high with a two-kilo packet retailing at Sh180.
At least 250 traders and 22 millers had applied for import licenses to bring in maize under the duty-free window as of December last year.
Millers argue that the cost of maize on the international market is high because of a shortage on the back of the Russia-Ukraine war that has disrupted the supply of grains, including maize and wheat.
“It is very difficult to get maize that will land in Kenya at that price that the government wants, there is a very serious shortage of grain in the market,” said Ken Nyaga, chairman United Grain Millers Association.
He said the maize that will land in the country by the end of this month will get to Mombasa at Sh5,600 for a 90-kilo bag.