The imports have pushed the price of a 90kg bag of dry maize to a low of 21 U.S. dollars from 26 dollars months ago in the breadbasket areas of Rift Valley.
However, while the drop in prices is a relief to many consumers who have had to dig deeper into their pockets to acquire the staple, farmers fear that the increased imports would interfere with marketing of their produce once harvesting is completed.
Most farmers across Kenya would be done with harvesting next month. But with the increased importation of cheaper maize from Uganda following a bumper harvest in the country, the Kenyan farmers would find the market unfriendly as the price would have dropped to about 5 dollars per 90kg bag.
Data from Regional Agricultural Trade Intelligence Network (Ratin), a software run by Eastern African Grain Council which monitors cross-border grains’ trade in the East Africa Community, received on Friday show that traders are currently importing an average of 4,200 metric tonnes (MT) of maize every day from Uganda through the western Kenya borders.
This is an increase of about 3,000MT from what the traders were bringing into the country slightly over a month ago. Sometime in July, the traders were importing an average of 1,200MT of maize from Kenya’s top trading partner.
According to Ratin, the traders imported from Uganda 4,052MT of maize through the Busia and Malaba border points on Wednesday. Other grains coming into Kenya from Uganda include sorghum, millet, beans, wheat, rice and green grams.
“This time round the imports have started to come in early that we wonder if our farmers will get market for their produce in the next few weeks,” said Bernard Moina, an agricultural extension officer in western Kenya’s Kitale county, which is among areas that have witnessed increased maize imports.
He noted that while maize prices normally drop soon after harvesting due to increased supply of maize, the imports from Uganda complicate matter for farmers.
“The traders are buying from Uganda a bag at about 10 dollars, and selling in Kenya more than double the price. It is good profit for them that they will not care about the local farmers who will want to sell a bag at least 20 dollars because our cost of production is higher,” he added.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, as of Sept. 1, Kenya had 15 million 90kg bags of maize, with farmers holding about 7 million bags from last harvest, traders had 2.4 million bags, millers had 1.2 million bags and the cereals’ board 4 million bags.
“The current maize balance sheet projected from August to December shows that the available stocks are currently adequate to meet national needs for the next four months with a surplus of 12.1 million bags by end December,” said a food security report by the Ministry of Agriculture released last week.
However, at the recommended government price of 22 dollars per 90kg bag, the Kenyan maize is expensive compared to that from Uganda, the reason why traders are going across the border to buy the produce. Enditem