Maize imports shoot up by almost 200pc

A resident of Kapsitwet village drying maize after a bamber harvest. [Joseph Kipsang, Standard]

Maize is among the food items whose imports shot up in 2022 as the country recorded negative growth in agriculture for the second year running.

Data by Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) in the recently released Economic Survey 2023 shows maize imports having increased by 307,226 tonnes to hit 793,751 tonnes last year.

This is compared to 2021 when the imports increased by 213,053 tonnes and 2020 by 44,689 tonnes.

The last time the agriculture sector recorded positive growth was in 2020 when it expanded by 5.2 per cent. In 2021, the sector recorded a negative growth of 0.3 per cent and a further drop of 1.6 per cent in 2022 to negative 1.9 per cent.

The data shows Kenya has imported more than 520,000 tonnes of the staple in the last two years, an increase of 190.2 per cent.

National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Prof Njuguna Ndung’u attributed the poor agricultural performance to drought in most parts of the country.

“To support the sector, the government will continue investing in irrigation to reduce dependency on rain-fed agriculture and increase amount of land under crop production,” said the CS during the launch of the survey report last week.

Maize production in 2022 reduced by 2.4 million bags to record 34.3 million.

“The quantity of imported maize continued to rise for three years in a row reaching 793,800 metric tonnes in 2022,” the report says.

The same scenario was seen in rice imports, which increased to 678,087 tonnes from 630,910 tonnes recorded in 2021.

There was a slight drop in unmilled wheat imports from 1,889,921.9 tonnes in 2021 to 1,676,623 in 2022 even as production dropped.

“Wheat production decreased by 13 per cent from 349,100 tonnes in 2021 to 270,700 tonnes in 2022,” says the report.

The value of total imports by broad economic category under food and beverage show that the amounts brought into the country for purposes of household consumption also went up in 2022.

The report records food and beverage primary imports valued at Sh19.7 billion having been imported in 2022 compared to Sh16.2 billion in 2021.

The value of processed foods and beverage imported for household consumption also shot up to Sh102.1 billion in 2022 compared to Sh90.8 billion in 2021.