Government's policy on maize imports a ploy to cheat farmers

Earlier this month, the Government revealed that traders will be allowed to import duty-free maize in the next two months to avert what it termed a crisis on consumer prices of the staple food.

Maize farmers have understandably come out to strongly oppose the move, claiming the Government is acting in the interest of importers and farmers in foreign countries, neglecting its own.

“The Kenyan farmer has more than the ability to produce enough food,” said Chairman of the Cereal Growers Association (CGA) Stephanus Kruger.

“The technology is there, all they need is the support. A shortfall of 20 per cent is easily manageable,” he explained.

“Post-harvest losses alone are between 20 per cent and 40 per cent. If we can halve that, we’ll already have eliminated a huge deficit in the actual quantity of grain that we have in the country.”

The CGA is right on this claim.

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Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) indicates the production of maize in Kenya has averaged 40 million bags annually between 2011 and 2016.

This translates to 3.6 million tonnes annually and last year, production increased by 26 per cent to four million tonnes.

The KNBS data also indicates that Kenyans consumed 2.6 million tonnes of maize in 2016 and an almost similar amount in 2015.

Last year the country’s domestic consumption stood at 3.3 million tonnes.

Even accounting for the 564,000 tonnes imported and 629,000 tonnes used for other purposes like animal feeds, this means the country can sustain its local demand for maize without resorting to importation.

The parliamentary inquiry into the 2017 maize scandal unsurprisingly revealed that duty-free maize imports are designed to reward connected importers at the expense of local farmers and the country’s revenue basket.

“The Government’s inconsistent, incoherent policies and pronouncements on maize importation led to massive importation of maize without proper control leading to over-importation and massive revenue loss,” explains the final report from the inquiry in part.

For instance, while six million bags were approved for importation under the subsidy programme, 10.5 million bags were imported instead.

At the same time, the 1.3 million tonnes of maize imported by the Government resulted in a direct revenue loss of Sh13.4 billion to the country.

The Government further bought the maize at Sh4,000 per bag while the price paid out to farmers for a 100kg bag declined by 43 per cent from Sh3,318 in 2014 to Sh2, 261 last year.

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Cereal Growers AssociationKenya National Bureau of StatisticsMaize Farmers