Act to avoid new circus over maize
Kenya must put in place policies to cushion consumers from a surge in the cost of maize flour after freezing imports from Uganda and Tanzania on aflatoxin concerns.
While Nairobi denied banning maize imports from the two countries, it was obvious the aflatoxin concerns would lead to a shortage, with imports being put under scrutiny.
It is, therefore, not clear why there are no tangible measures to cushion consumers from the price volatilities one month after Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) raised a red flag on the imports.
As the Cereal Millers Association has noted, without clarity and coordination between relevant government and regulatory agencies, the prices of maize flour will increase.
CMA members, who are estimated to account for more than 40 per cent of all processed flour in the country, are reported to be holding some 1.5 million bags but are concerned that the stock is not enough to ensure unrestricted supply of maize flour.
With Kenyans consuming an average of 3 million 90kg bags of maize a month, there is a need to import maize due to differences in harvesting periods in various counties.
Already, the price of maize flour has increased to Sh1,250 per bale, and the situation could deteriorate leading to further increase in the price of the commodity.
To ease the situation, millers want the government to set up a joint task force to ensure there is full coordination and communication of the current import restrictions and ensure involvement of all regulators.
In the interim, they want destination inspection to be performed so that clean maize can be cleared and where necessary Kebs, Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) and accredited laboratories to test for aflatoxins at the border point to avoid further delays.
Further, all good quality maize, which is held by traders and farmers, be immediately made available to millers to ensure supply of flour is not impeded during this period.
However, before the government makes the move, it is important to ensure that it has verifiable data to make the decision whether Kenya needs quick imports at this point.
This will help avoid getting into the trap of cartels who may want to make a quick buck from the situation.
More importantly, the government must ensure politicians from maize producing regions are brought on board to avoid the usual protests and delays whenever a need to import is put on the table.