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Millers seek lifting of India wheat importation ban


Cereal Millers Association Executive Officer Paloma Fernandes. PHOTO | BILLY MUTAI | NMG

Kenya may run out of options in the importation of wheat to cover for the local deficit if it fails to lift the current restrictions on imports from India, large-scale millers have warned.

Nairobi has restricted imports of wheat from India because of a fungal disease that the country is worried would affect local crops if it is allowed.

Currently, local millers are hardly accessing wheat from the Black Sea following the closure of ports along this shipping corridor as a result of the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine. Kenya gets nearly 66 percent of its supplies from the two warring nations.

“We have written to the government to do a proper risk analysis on Indian wheat to see how we can manage the situation,” said the chief executive officer of the Cereal Millers Association Paloma Fernandes.

Ms Fernandez said millers are supposed to be making orders now for the second half of the year but it is impossible to get the stocks from Russia and Ukraine.

Ms Fernandez said India has a glut now and they are offering a tonne of wheat at $100 (Sh11,500) less than what other markets are selling at and that would make it cheaper for consumers.

Countries across the world are searching for alternative source markets following the current impasse in Eastern Europe. Tanzania and Uganda have already indicated that they will be shipping in the grain from India to cater to their local needs.

The millers also have urged the government to remove all duties and levies in order to mitigate the expected high cost of flour in the market.

A bag of imported wheat attracts 30 percent in import duty, a rate that is applicable to members of the East African Community as a common external tariff on grain coming outside the regional bloc.

Millers are concerned that a delay in planting in Ukraine, which normally starts in March will have a negative impact on Kenya.

Consumers are already feeling the impact of the war the price of wheat flour has gone up by 10 percent in recent days.

United Nations warned a fortnight ago that African countries could be hit with a shortage of wheat supply as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Many African countries and poor countries are dependent on wheat production in Russia and Ukraine, but now they are at risk because of the war,” said the UN.

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