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Millers say wheat stuck at the port

Wheat harvesting in Narok. Kenya relies on imports to meet demand for the commodity. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Wheat harvesting in Narok. Kenya relies on imports to meet demand for the commodity. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

A delay in offloading 300,000 tonnes of wheat at the port of Mombasa has hit millers hard, raising fear this could lead to an increase in flour prices as they run out of stock.

The wheat has been stuck at the port for the last three to four weeks.

The slow pace of discharge has been blamed on the ongoing rains that have hampered the activity. Wheat that arrived at the port on November 6 could be discharged on December 5.

“About eight vessels are stuck at the port with over 300,000 tonnes of wheat. This will take another month to discharge and it is likely to have negative impact on prices due to increased demand as we head towards Christmas,” said one of the large millers in an interview.

Kenya ports Authority management had not responded to our queries by the time of going to Press.

The delay comes at a time local wheat has become scarce due to poor harvest in the last crop season.

The Ministry of Agriculture and a farmers’ lobby have projected that local production will drop by half a million bags at the end of the ongoing harvest.

Kenya does not produce sufficient wheat and relies on imports to meet its annual demand. This makes the country a net importer of the commodity, bringing in two-thirds of its requirement to meet the annual consumption of 900,000 tonnes against local production of 350,000 tonnes.

There has been an increase in the cost of wheat flour since July, with millers attributing it to delays in offloading. Imported maize has also flooded the port. Prices have been going up since July with the retail price of a two-kilogramme packet of Exe flour now at Sh138 from Sh133 while the Golden brand is selling at Sh133 up from Sh129, with Jimbi going at Sh135 from Sh129.

The government has been restricting millers from importing wheat during the harvesting, directing them to mop up the local crop first before importing.

Ministry of Agriculture says with the start of harvesting in Narok, millers have been allocated local purchase quotas, hence cutting down on imports.