The government has opted to transport subsidised maize via standard gauge railway (SGR) from Mombasa to Nairobi to ease the shortage of the Sh90 a packet flour.
The cargo trains on SGR were supposed to start the first trips in January next year but the maize flour shortage has prompted a change of tack to save millions of Kenyans grappling with the lack of cheap flour.
Cereal Millers Association (CMA) said steady availability of the Sh90 maize flour is hinged on supply of imported maize amid shortages on shop shelves that have seen consumers scramble for the cheap staple.
“We have had discussion with my Transport colleague this morning (yesterday) and we have agreed on the matter. We want to use SGR to deliver the grain on time to tame the current shortage,” Agriculture secretary Willy Bett said.
“Because of the high uptake of the grain by the millers, it posed a challenge in using road alone as the only means of transport.”
Maize from Nairobi’s SGR station will be transported to the Rift Valley and Western Kenya by the ageing narrow-gauge track operated by the Rift Valley Railways (RVR).
“We want to use SGR, RVR and road transport to ensure this maize gets to all parts of the country without delays,” Mr Bett said.
The cheap maize is the product of a Sh6 billion subsidy meant to lower the price of a 90 kg bag of maize to Sh2,300 from above Sh4, 000, allowing the 2kg packet of flour to sell for Sh90 and the market cost of Sh140.
The Ministry of Agriculture says 1.2 million bags of imported subsidised maize have been obtained by the millers.
Kenyans consume about three million bags monthly and millers say the imports are inadequate.
Mr Bett said the latest imported cargo will also be distributed to posho mills to ensure all Kenyans benefit from the subsidy.
Rising prices of staple maize flour and other foods 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 cost of living to portray the government as incompetent.