Maize millers have collected 600,000 bags of cheap maize at the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) after the presidency intervened to resolve the stalemate that caused delays one month after processors had paid for the grain.
As of Friday last week, NCPB said millers had started picking up the Sh1 billion grain with more bags expected to be collected this week.
The NCPB communications manager Titus Maiyo said pick ups started on Monday, just a week after Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua and Interior secretary Fred Matiang’i chaired a meeting to resolve issues outstanding between NCPB and the Strategic Food Reserve Committee that led to the delays.
The State stopped release of Sh1 billion maize amid allegations that some processors wanted to buy the grain cheaply for trading.
“Millers have started picking maize and so far they have collected over 400,000 bags with more expected to be taken this week,” said Mr Maiyo.
The government is releasing three million bags of maize to millers to tame high cost of flour, which has so far shot to Sh120 for a two-kilo packet.
The State is selling a 90-kilo bag at Sh2,300 against the market price of Sh3,300, which has subjected Kenyans to the high cost of flour.
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri said the previous week that the country will allow traders to import 12 million bags of maize to tame the rising cost of flour.
However, Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich, in the budget last week did not scrap the 50 percent duty on imported maize coming from outside East African Community (EAC).
At a news briefing at the Parliament Buildings shortly after presenting the budget for the coming financial year, Mr Rotich said he was aware that the current stocks of maize will be exhausted by July and that the Cabinet will make a collective decision on imports.
One of the options fronted was for Kenya to open duty-free maize imports from July to plug the grain shortage.
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri, speaking to millers in May, said that strategies were in place, including waving of the 50 percent duty imposed grain from EAC.
However, in an interview with a local daily, Mr Kiunjuri ruled out duty-free imports saying the government would not subsidise millers’ maize shipments this year.
Instead, he said, the government would work out the logistics so that millers import the grain on time to avoid biting shortage. "This matter is being reviewed by Cabinet. There are indications that we may not have enough maize going forward,” said Mr Rotich.
Grain Mills Owners Association, which paid the Sh1 billion for the NCPB maize, had warned that Kenyans would run out of maize flour in the in the event the produce was not released on time from NCPB.