Unlike last year, maize farmers are enjoying some of the best prices this season with the value having hit a high of Sh2,800 a bag. However, this comes at a cost to consumers who have to contend with expensive ugali.
The shortage of grain that hit the country this year and anticipated deficit next year has seen the cost of the staple fetch one of the highest prices to have been witnessed during harvesting time.
At the same time last year, the commodity was going at Sh1,800 for a 90-kilogramme bag in a flooded market.
Good market price has seen the Strategic Food Reserve (SFR) opt out of buying maize from farmers this year.
“There is no need to set price at the moment as farmers are getting high prices at the market,” said Strategic Food Reserve Board Chairman Noah Wekesa in an interview with the Business Daily last month.
As much as it is a relieve to farmers, who last year had to cope with low prices, this has come as a burden to consumers who will have to part with more money.
Normally at this time of the year when main crop season is being harvested, the price of flour should be at an average of Sh100 for a two-kilo packet. The scarcity has seen the two-kilo packet now retail at Sh130.
The maize situation in the country, says the government, is likely to be worse than what was experienced this year.
Agriculture Principal Secretary Hamadi Boga said the expected shortage next year and the current high prices would worsen the situation.
“The situation next year will be worse than what we have witnessed this season as scarcity in the market is expected to start as early as February and to be safe, we might have to think of imports,” said Prof Boga.
“What we are going to do is to regulate the imports and ensure that only what is required is brought in to ensure that the window is not abused.”
The Ministry of Agriculture had announced in March that Kenya would run out of maize at the end of July and wanted the country to ship in grain from Mexico before the situation got out of hand.
The import of maize was a contentious issue between SFR and the Agriculture ministry.
Whereas the board wanted importation of 2.5 million bags, the ministry stated a figure of 12.5 million bags to be shipped in, a move the led to a standoff.
The ministry had made elaborate plans to import 11.1 million bags of maize from Mexico to bridge the deficit.