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Economy

Imports from Uganda fall 50pc in January, February

Bags of maize loaded on trucks
Bags of maize loaded on trucks. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The value of imports from Uganda fell by more than half in the first two months of the year, reflecting reduced orders for grains such as maize.

Import bill from Kampala stood at Sh4.55 billion in January and February, data collated by the Central Bank of Kenya shows, 63.58 percent drop from Sh12.49 billion a year earlier.

Poor weather in 2017 saw Kenyan traders flock Uganda for cheaper maize from late 2017 through early 2018.

Nairobi ran a rare trade deficit of Sh1.9 billion in the review period in 2018 after orders from the landlocked country amounted to Sh12.49 billion against Sh10.59 billion exports.

Kenya has increasingly relied on its neighbour to the west for foodstuffs such as staple maize and groundnuts in event of poor weather.

Uganda, for example, accounted for 70.36 per cent of the nearly 419,548 tonnes of maize imports, an equivalent of about 4.66 million 90-kg bags, in the five months to May 2018 following a severe drought in 2017.

The statistics were contained in a report by the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) to the parliamentary departmental Committee on Agriculture and Livestock mid last year.

The tables have, however, turned with Kenya enjoying relatively stable supply of food at the start of the year, largely due to subsidies and waiver of import duties on food items from May to December 2017.

Traders took advantage of the window to flood the market with cheaper maize imports, leaving farmers in the food-basket North Rift region stuck with stocks of the staple commodity in stores.

Food imports in January-February 2019 period dropped 24.31 percent to Sh28.73 billion compared with a year earlier, reflecting a relatively stable food situation in the period.

But with failed March-April-May long rains, there’s a possibility authorities may give subsidies to traders to import food to smoothen imminent shortages that have seen prices of some basic food items go up already.

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