Sh90 flour shortage may last longer after ships fail to dock

The Sh90 government subsidised 2kg maize flour at a local outlet. FILE PHOTO | NMG
The Sh90 government subsidised 2kg maize flour at a local outlet. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Shortage of subsidised maize flour could last longer after two ships with 833,333 bags of cheap grains failed to dock at a grain handling facility in Mombasa port.

Agriculture secretary Willy Bett had said on June 7 two ships would dock at the port last Thursday and Saturday with collective cargo of 75,000 tonnes.

But records at Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) indicate no new ship docked at the port last week and that a vessel labelled Medi Aero with  366,666 bags is expected to arrive Monday after failing to dock last Friday as expected.

Cereal Millers Association (CMA) said the steady supply Sh90 a packet maize flour is hinged on the new maize cargo amid shortage on shop shelves that has seen consumers scramble for the cheap staple.

The 366,666 bags will take up to 12 days to be offloaded at the congested Grain Bulk Handling Limited (GBHL) facility, transported to the mills and back to shops, a pointer that the flour could hit the market at end of end of the month at the earliest.

The cheap maize is the product of a Sh6 billion subsidy that lowered the price of a 90kg bag of maize to Sh2,300 from above Sh4,000, allowing the 2kg packet of flour to sell for Sh90, down from the market cost of Sh140.

Rising prices maize flour and other food has become a political headache for President Uhuru Kenyatta as he seeks a second term in the August elections.

He is running against opposition leader Raila Odinga, who has used the high costs of living to portray the government as incompetent. Retailers found selling the 2kg packet of subsidised flour above Sh90 risk a fine of Sh1 million or a five-year jail term.

This follows the publication of a gazette notice giving legal backing for state control of sifted maize flour costs and marks the first time the order has been issued under a law passed in 2011 allowing price control of essential goods.

High cost of food saw inflation jump to 11.70 per cent in April from 10.48 per cent the previous month, taking it beyond the Treasury’s preferred upper limit of 7.5 per cent. The cost of living measure is at 57-month high.