The government has dropped plans to import 12.5 million bags of maize that were meant to address the “maize deficit in the country.”
The Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture, Mwangi Kiunjuri, had insisted that the government was going to import maize but recanted the statement on Tuesday.
Mwangi Kiunjuri now says that time that had been set aside to import maize into the country has elapsed saying Kenyans will have to endure the deficit until the end of the year.
Various leaders had questioned the government’s move to want to import maize without tabling evidence of the maize shortage in the country.
The chair of the Kenya Food Reserve, Dr. Noah Wekesa had faulted Kiunjuri’s move to want to import maize, insisting the country had enough maize to sustain Kenyans until the next harvest.
During the last harvest season, the number of 90-kilogram bags that were in the hands of Kenyans were estimated to be at 18 million, an increase from 12 million bags in the previous harvest.
The surplus in maize supply forced the prices of maize to drop by more than 60 percent. A 9p-kilogram bag of maize was retailing at an average of 1,200 shillings across the country.
The government opted to buy maize from farmers at the price of 2,300 shillings for every 90-kilogram bag. The price was later increased to 2,600 shillings.
President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) to buy a total of 2 million bags of maize from farmers.
The directive from the President meant farmers were going to be left with at least 16 million bags of maize if the government bought the 2 million bags of maize.
There was an influx of maize from the neighboring Uganda, especially through Busia, sustaining the price of maize at a low of 800 shillings for a 90-kilogram bag in some parts of the country.
The Maize Disappeared
Towards the end of the month of April, the maize just disappeared. It was like magic. The farmers stopped complaining and nobody could explain where the maize went.
The “mysterious disappearance” of maize caused the prices of maize to shoot by more than 100 percent in some parts of the country.
The price of a 90-kilogram bag of dry maize spiked from an average of 1,200 shillings three months earlier to an average of 3,600 shillings.
Currently, the price of a 90-kilogram of maize is between 4,000 and 4,300 shillings from 1,200 shillings some three to four months ago.
In Kakamega, a 90-kilogram bag of dry maize retailing at 4,350 shillings while in Bungoma, it is at 4,000 shillings.
The “disappearance of the maize” forced the government to announce the importation of 12.5 million bags of maize that were to arrive in the country before the month of September.
The Price of Unga
With the increase in maize prices, the price of maize flour increased as well. The price of a 2-kilogram packet of maize flour increased by 30 percent.
Across the country, the price of a 2-kilogram packet of maize flour increased from an average of 85 and 87 shillings to between 115 and 125 shillings.
In the villages, a 2-kilogram tin of maize shot from an average of 40 and 50 shillings to between 100 and 120 shillings.