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Puzzle of Ukraine bid for Sh10bn yellow maize exports to Kenya


Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett did not respond to queries on the planned imports of yellow maize. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU

Officials on Wednesday remained mum as Ukraine announced that Kenya planned to import five million bags or 450,000 metric tonnes of yellow maize for the first time in five years at an estimated cost of over Sh10 billion.

On Tuesday the former Soviet republic, one of the top global producers of corn, asked firms in the country to prepare bids for the maize expected to be for cattle feeds manufacturing.

“Companies interested in corn supplies to Kenya may inform the ministry with a view to further sending the lists received to the Ukrainian Embassy in Kenya,” the Kiev Ministry of Agricultural Policy and Food was quoted saying by the country’s news agency Interfax-Ukraine.

The yellow maize should be GM-free and the exporting company should have a European Union certificate and supply corn meeting Kenya’s quality standards.

The Ukrainian ministry said the information availed by the firms would be sent to Kenya in the form of consolidated commercial offers.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett did not respond to the Business Daily’s queries on the planned imports.

Last month, Johnson Irungu, the Director of Crops at the Ministry of Agriculture, told Bloomberg the maize imports from Ukraine, the first of the yellow maize variety since 2011, would be brought in by private companies and sold to animal feed millers.

Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich last month said the government would decide whether to allow millers to import the yellow maize duty free for to ease pressure on white maize amid a biting shortage.

Mr Rotich, whose docket is mandated to issue waivers on imports, had said the current maize shortage might warrant importation of the yellow variety duty free.

“A multi-agency team is conducting an assessment of the situation and it will inform us appropriately on the action to take.

‘‘We want to see if we might allow millers to import yellow maize duty free in order to ease competition for white maize,” said Mr Rotich at the time.

on Wednesday, Mr Rotich directed media queries to the Agriculture ministry.

“Direct these questions to the relevant ministry, I presume the Ministry of Agriculture. I am not aware of any purchases nor where they are to be sourced,” he said in a text message.

Mr Bett said earlier in January that the government could start importing maize from foreign countries at the end of this week to mitigate the hunger being experienced in the country.

The move, he added, had also been taken to protect consumers from farmers and businessmen who were hoarding maize expecting to cash in on higher prices.

Mr Bett said a spot check throughout the country had shown that many businessmen and farmers were hoarding maize expecting a major rise in the price of maize flour.

The Agriculture CS has separately hinted at plans to import maize from Mexico to ease the current supply shortage, which has seen the price of flour hit a five-year high, making it the first time in nine years that East Africa’s largest economy will be buying the staple from outside Africa.