Maize imports from Uganda have helped to stabilise flour prices ahead of the harvest season but farmers in the North Rift are up in arms saying they face losses.
The Ugandan cereal retails at Sh2,400 per 90 kilogramme- bag, far below the prevailing Sh3,200 market price for local produce.
Most of the Ugandan grains enter to the country through the Suam border in Trans-Nzoia County, a major maize growing zon.
Data from the Regional Agricultural Trade Intelligence Network (Ratin) run by the Eastern African Grain Council — which monitors real-time cross-border grain trade — indicates an increase in quantities of maize crossing into the country under the East African Common (EAC) market protocol.
Besides the Suam crossing, tonnes of maize is also finding its way to Kenya through the Lwakhakha, Malaba and Busia borders.
Leaders from the region have petitioned the government to regulate importation of cheap grains to the country to cushion them from losses.
“The EAC market agreement is hurting the local farmers due to flooding of cheap produce from Uganda,” said Mr Andrew Kemboi, a farmer and trader from Suam.
A spot check indicates that traders are purchasing the cheap maize and are stock piling the produce in Kitale and Eldoret in anticipation of increased prices due to the projected yield decline.
Erratic weather conditions and disease outbreak have been cited for the downturn.
“The cost of maize production in Uganda is lower since no fertiliser is applied compared to our case where we have to apply the nutrients to realise better yields,” said Mr Wilson Koech from Moiben, Uasin Gishu County.
The Strategic Food Reserve (SFR) Board Chairman Dr Noah Wekesa confirmed the entry of more maize from Uganda.
“We have been receiving more maize from Uganda through Suam, Malaba and Busia border and from Tanzania via Namanga and Mombasa to meet the increasing demand of the stable source of food,” Dr Wekesa said.
The maize flour prices have stagnated at Sh120 per two-kilogrammes’ packet due to deteriorating stocks.
The Ministry of Agriculture projects a 21 million maize bags harvest in Rift Valley this season, a similar quantity realised the previous season.