Traders given nod to import two million bags of maize

Wednesday, April 1st, 2020 00:00 |
Maize flour. Photo/Courtesy

Lewis Njoka @LewisNjoka

The government will allow traders to import two million bags of white maize to cushion the country against the effects of Covid-19, Agriculture Cabinet secretary Peter Munya has said.

He said the import will, however, attract a 14 per cent duty aimed at ensuring locally produced maize remains competitive. 

Animal feed producers will also be allowed to import two million bags of yellow maize, specifically for animal feed production, in a tender that will be restricted to processors in the sub-sector only.  

This, too, will attract a 10 per cent duty to cushion local producers of animal feed inputs.

“We already authorised the importation of two million bags of maize and the gazette notice that will allow the private sector to import that maize is coming out any time from now,” said Munya.

“Once it (gazette notice) is out, those who are in the food processing and selling business will have the opportunity to import a maximum of two million bags of white maize and two million bags and yellow maize,” he added.

Food vouchers

The CS said the government has changed its policy on national food reserve to make it private-sector driven as opposed to the State itself buying grains from farmers as was the case previously. 

Going forward, the government will mostly concern itself with monitoring the food situation in the country, buying and distributing food to the vulnerable via coupons, food vouchers and other appropriate means.

Strategic Food Reserve (SFR) will mainly play an advisory role on matters food security as opposed to procuring grains.

Already, the government is in the process of mapping vulnerable households, including their number and location using technology.

“The old policy where the government was buying food and storing is changing, now we want to use the private sector.

We want traders to be storing the grain themselves. We have already opened up government grain stores, those wishing to use them for storage can now do so,” said Munya.

 “Direct storing of food is a policy we have to rethink because it is wasteful and taken advantage of by corruption networks,” he added.

In January, the government announced plans to merge the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) and the SFR, the two main bodies involved in ensuring Kenya is food secure. 

Under the new arrangement, SFR will become a department of NCPB.

The SFR department will be tasked with carrying out market surveys and research for the benefit of farmers. It will also inform decisions on interventions such as prices when necessary.

Previously, SFR has been controlling the purchase of cereals, especially maize, from farmers and setting prices to protect farmers when need arises. 

NCPB, on the other hand, used to import and sell subsidised fertiliser to farmers, an exercise alleged to suffer constant interference from corrupt cartels.

Munya spoke at Kilimo House yesterday on the country’s preparedness on matters food security in the wake of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Flower business

During the event, Munya revealed that owing to the lockdown in most European countries, Kenyan flower farms lost over 70 per cent of their income last month.

Fruits and vegetables exporters, on the other hand, are shipping only 25 to 30 per cent of their normal capacity with many contracted farmers reporting losses due to non-collection of farm produce. 

He said the Covid-19 County Coordination and Food Security Committee, which he chairs, would in two days issue guidelines to counties, food processors, transporters, farmers and other value chain actors on how to protect themselves from the coronavirus in the course of their business.

More on Economy and Policy