Millers have opposed plans by Tanzania to export maize flour to Kenya to ease the current shortage, arguing this will destabilise the market and subject them to losses.
The processors argue they had been buying maize at Sh4,000 for a 90-kilo bag and bringing in finished product from Tanzania will render local flour uncompetitive.
The plan follows a recent delegation led by Foreign Affairs Secretary Monica Juma to the country where Tanzania said it would offer Kenya maize, but on condition that it is milled there.
Tanzanian President John Magufuli said his country would not sell maize grains to Kenya as earlier announced but as flour.
“We should not allow this at all as it means thousands of our employees will have to be sent home as we will not sustain the business anymore,” said a miller who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
“There is no way we can compete favourably with the Tanzanian flour because it is way cheaper than ours.”
Tanzanian maize is landing in Kenya at between Sh2,000 and Sh2,600 for a 90-kilo bag, which is way below the cost of the local produce that is now heading at Sh4,000 with millers complaining of scarcity in supply. Maize trade was part of bilateral deals agreed upon during President Uhuru Kenyatta’s visit to Tanzania earlier this month.
Agriculture Principal Secretary Hamadi Boga told millers in a recent letter that Tanzania and Uganda had offered to supply Kenya with 5.5 million and 2.2 million bags of maize respectively.
Agriculture Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri’s announcement in April that the gap needed to be bridged through imports was greeted with opposition in many quarters, with MPs, the Strategic Food Reserve Trust Fund and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga claiming that there was enough food in the country. In March, the ministry said there were 21 million bags of maize in the country forecast to last until the end of June.