Kenya’s maize imports hit a record high in 5 years according to data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS).
Following a decline in the cereal’s production due to drought, Kenya’s imports of maize more than quadrupled to 519,611.30 tonnes or 5.7 million 90-kilogram bags in the first nine months of 2022.
According to data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), the country imported 214,100.9 tonnes, or 2,378,899 bags, of maize during the same time period last year.
The country is experiencing a maize crisis, which has caused a surge in the retail price of maize flour and put 5.1 million people in need of food assistance.
This is the country’s largest maize import since 2017.
In the period between July and September last, the country imported 368,037.2 tonnes of maize valued at Sh10.9 billion.
In a similar period in 2021, the country imported 258,593.5 tonnes of the staple which is used for preparing ugali, a popular dish in most Kenyan households.
President William Ruto did away with a maize subsidy programme that had been put in place by his predecessor and which would have seen a two-kilogramme of maize flour retail at Sh100.
Ruto’s administration has however retained the waiver on import duty and levies on maize shipped from outside the country, although the unavailability of the cereal in the region and the high transport costs has complicated things.
“There were notable increases in the value of imported maize; and medicinal and pharmaceutical products from Sh7 billion and Sh21.4 billion in the third quarter of 2021 to Sh10.9 billion and Sh24.7 billion, respectively,” said KNBS in its Quarterly Balance of Payment for the third quarter last year.
For the first time in Kenya, the wholesale price of maize crossed the Sh6,000 mark at a time farmers are harvesting the main crop for the year.
The rising cost has seen the government open a window for the importation of 10 million bags of maize to stem the rising cost of flour.
The decline will add pressure on available food and is likely to worsen the situation given that the traditional source markets for Kenya-Uganda and Tanzania have found alternative markets for their crop in South Sudan and the United Arab Emirates where they fetch a good price.
Prices of maize flour have risen sharply to retail at around Sh200 in major retail stores in the country.