The Mexican maize received at the port of Mombasa last Thursday was transhipped from South Africa, the government has clarified today.
The 29,900-tonne cargo that arrived at the Mombasa port last Thursday, via vessel Mv IVS Pinehurst, was meant to address a biting flour shortage that has led to a surge in prices.
It has also emerged that another ship, Mv Interlink Priority, is expected to arrive at the port with another consignment of 37,050 tonnes of the commodity.
The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) published a notice allowing importation of white and yellow maize into the country on May 4 with the commodity arriving at the port on May 10, raising queries over how long it had taken the vessel to sail from Mexico to Mombasa.
The parliamentary team on Agriculture had also questioned the speed with which the consignment had arrived from the South American country.
However, Transport Principal Secretary Dr Paul Mwangi said the maize was stored in South Africa and the vessel took only five days after importers were given the nod to ship it into the country.
“The white maize was imported from South Africa from Mexico last year when there was a shortage in that country. The excess amount was stored in Durban and sold to Kenya by Inter Africa Gains PTY of Johannesburg,” Dr Mwangi said at the Mombasa port.
“The maize is therefore Mexican White maize which was transhipped into Kenya from South Africa. The ship takes only five days to sail from South Africa to Mombasa and that is why the maize arrived quickly,” he added.
Transhipment is a shipping term that refers to goods being transferred from bigger ships to smaller ones for redistribution to other ports.
The importers were listed as Kitui Flour Mills and Pembe Flour Mills (with 10,000 tonnes each) and Hydrey (P) Limited, which imported 9,900 tonnes.
The millers will share the maize with eight other local millers strewn across the county including Mombasa Maize Millers which has been allocated 68,756 bags of 90 kilos, Alpa Grain Millers based at Athi River (11,486 bags) and Nairobi Flour Mills Limited (16,086 bags).
Kitui and Pembe flour mills have been allocated 27,932 and 28,124 bags respectively.
The PS however declined to comment on when the prices of flour are expected to come down, saying Kenya is a free market and that it would be determined by market forces.
“We expect the millers to reciprocate the government’s efforts by expediting the production process so that wananchi can start accessing the flour this week at reduced prices,” he said.
According to the KRA notice, the duty free maize imports window expires on July 31, when at least 2.8 million bags of maize will have been imported to supplement the four million bags already held by farmers and millers across the country.
“However, importation is being done in a careful manner not to jeopardise the position of our farmers,” he said.