The Kenyan government has waived import duty on maize and rice for a period of six months to ease shortage of the cereals and avert a food crisis.
The prices of maize flour and rice in Kenya have gone up sharply in recent months due to low local production caused by a persistent drought and high cost of inputs such as fertiliser and diesel.
This even as the government recently lifted the ban on the growing and importation of genetically modified (GM) maize, which it said would allow the country to access much cheaper maize from the global market.
The Ministry of Agriculture has announced that traders will be allowed to import up to 900,000 tonnes of duty-free white maize and 600,000 of duty-free milled rice from February to August next year.
“(This will) enable the country to have adequate stocks to last until next harvest from July to August 2023. The duty waiver shall apply to white maize and milled rice imported into the country by August 6, 2023 by millers and traders,” said the State Department for Crop Development.
Kenya’s Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria had last month announced that the government will allow importation of 10 million bags of maize amid protests by farmers who wanted the government to wait until they sell their produce from the current harvest season.
Maize prices remain high even as the ongoing harvesting of maize across the country is set to yield about 30 million bags against an annual consumption of approximately 45 million bags.
The cost of a two-kilogramme packet of maize flour has increased by 32.2 per cent over the past 12 months, according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), and is retailing at over Sh200.
Kenya’s maize production has fluctuated in the past eight years, with its highest production being in 2018 when it produced 44.6 million bags, and the lowest being in 2017 when the country produced 35.4 million bags. The local maize production deficit has forced the country to rely on imports to address the shortage.
Duty free import window
In May, the government gave traders and millers a three-month window to import 540,000 tonnes of maize duty free until August, before it was extended for two more months.
Rice is the third most consumed staple in the country but most of the cereal consumed locally is imported. Kenya imported 630,910 tonnes of rice last year valued at Ksh31.14 billion ($252.9 million), according to KNBS. Only 186,000 tonnes of rice paddy were produced locally.
Kenya is facing a biting food shortage that has raised the cost of living to a five-year high.
The cost of food has increased by 15.4 per cent between November 2021 and November this year, transport costs have grown 11.7 per cent, while housing, water, electricity and gas prices have risen by 6.1 per cent during the period.
The World Bank says high frequency monitoring of households shows a rise in food insecurity, most severely in Kenyan rural areas, and that over half of households reduced their food consumption in June 2022.
“The July assessment of long rains indicated that the drought has left 3.5 million people food insecure in Kenya, a 13 per cent increase since the February assessment,” said World Bank.
Source: The East African