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Kenya faces maize imports hurdle as regional states halt sale


Kenya normally imports non-GMO maize from Zambia and Malawi in times of severe scarcity. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Kenya’s bid to import maize from the region may be stillborn given the shortage that has seen some of the countries such as Zambia and Malawi restrict white produce exports due to limited stocks.

Agriculture Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri told Parliament last week that the government plans to bring in produce from Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) after shelving plans of shipping the produce from Mexico.

However, Eastern Africa Grain Council executive director Gerald Masila says though there could be stocks in Tanzania and Uganda, there is still a need to import outside the region, especially given that this year’s crop will not be good.

“It would be a good idea to allow a certain strategic quantity of imports outside the region for human use as well as some quantities for animal feeds,” he said.

Mr Masila said the quantities should be highly controlled to ensure maize more than required is not brought in the country.

Kenya normally imports non-GMO maize from Zambia and Malawi in times of severe scarcity. However, Zambia has closed its borders on exports saying the limited stocks are meant for own use while Malawi suffered a severe drought and is currently mulling over imports from Brazil.

Zambian President Edgar Lungu issued the directive to close the border in April. In 2010 and 2017, Zambia and Malawi played a key role in supplementing the local maize stocks following a severe shortage.

The Agriculture ministry last week said Tanzania and Uganda had offered to supply Kenya with 5.5 million and 2.2 million bags of maize respectively.

The standoff between the ministry and the Strategic Food Reserve (SFR) seems to have delayed the entire import process as political interests weighs in.

Whereas the ministry insisted that the country needs to import 12.5 million bags of produce, the SFR board says there is only need to ship in two million bags.

SFR chairman Noah Wekesa accused ‘cartels’ of only being interested in lining their pockets at the expense of the farmers, a statement that prompted an angry response from Mr Kiunjuri, who said he would have the last say on the matter.