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Imports of yellow maize for feeds stall on GMO-free rule


Yellow maize being offloaded at Mombasa port. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The importation of yellow maize to tame the exorbitant cost of animal feeds has stalled following a government directive to have the approved companies ship in produce that is 100 percent genetically modified organism (GMO) free, dealing a blow to farmers who are grappling with high cost.

A genetically modified organism is one whose genetic makeup has been altered to favour the expression of desired traits such as better crop yield and resistance to herbicides.

GMOs are, however, controversial, with fears that they can cause harm to human health and the environment.

The decision to import yellow maize was approved by Treasury nearly a month ago but the importers are unable to commence the process as they cannot find produce that is 100 percent non-GMO in the world market. “The importation of yellow maize has not started and it is unlikely to start soon because of a directive by the government to have importers ship in maize that is 100 percent non-GMO,” said Association of Kenya Feeds Manufacturer’s secretary-general Martin Kinoti.

The decision to allow yellow maize imports followed a directive by President Uhuru Kenyatta to the Treasury and Agriculture ministry to come up with a measure to tame the high cost of feeds.

The price of a 70-kilogramme bag of dairy meal has gone up from Sh2,500 in August last year to Sh3,400, chick marsh is retailing at Sh4,200 from Sh3,250 while layers is now selling at Sh3,800 from Sh3,100.

Feed manufacturers have now written to the Treasury asking it to amend the standards and align them to European guidelines that allow a minimum purity of 99.1 percent. “It is very difficult to find yellow maize that is 100 percent GMO-free in the world market. We have even consulted with global commodity dealers and they have said that that is impossible,” Mr Kinoti said.

The firms that had been vetted to import the produce have shied because of the order as they fear they could incur losses when they bring in the grain only to be confiscated at the port for having not met the set limit.