Firms behind maize import

MV IVS Pine Hurst docked with 29,000 tonnes of duty-free maize. [Maarufu Mohamed,Standard]

Nairobi-based billionaire Naushad Merali is linked to the firm that imported the maize that arrived in Mombasa on Thursday.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett yesterday said Holbud Limited imported 29,900 tonnes of maize, from Mexico.

"I have looked at the manifest of the ship and I have been told that the importer is Holbud," Mr Bett told reporters outside the Grain Bulk Handlers terminal, where the maize was to be received.

The Government has said an additional 30,000 tonnes of maize was expected in two weeks as part of measures to reduce the price of maize flour. However, it is not clear who the importers of this second consignment are.

The total consignment, which is worth about Sh3 billion, is expected to bring down runaway retail maize prices.

Holbud, a United Kingdom company, was at one time awarded a controversial Sh6 billion tender to supply fertiliser on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture.

Members of the National Assembly's Committee on Agriculture demanded to see Mr Merali during investigations involving the 21,000 tonnes of fertiliser delivered by Holbud.

The committee later cleared the deal and dismissed the quality concerns raised by Kenya Bureau of Standards with a caution that the State should only restrict periods for such large tenders to one-year rather than the three-years given to Holbud Ltd.

Pembe Millers

Holbud, whose chief executive is listed as Hasanain Merali, is described as an international firm that deals in commodities including grains and is a commercial manager of cargo ships and commercial properties, property letting, and share dealing.

Shipping documents seen by The Standard show that four firms bought the maize from Holbud, including Pembe Millers and Kitui Millers.

The other two are Tanzanian-owned Bakhresa Grain Milling and Hydery (P) Ltd.

Bakhresa Grain Milling was reported to have been putting up a Sh5 billion plant in Mariakani, Mombasa, two years ago but it was not immediately possible to determine whether the plant was completed.

Official documents indicate that Hydery (P) Ltd was incorporated more than five years ago as a commodity trading company with nine directors.

Naushad Akberali Merali (not Kenyan business mogul Naushad Noorali Merali) and Roshanali Akberali Merali are among the shareholders of Hydery (P) Ltd. Holbud Ltd, on the other hand, has six directors including Shaukat Akberali Merali and Gulamali Masumali Merali.

Efforts to determine how the directors of either firm were related, the surnames notwithstanding, failed.

From Mr Bett's speech, it is difficult to determine whether Holbud Ltd was the seller, transporter, or simply the importer – with Hydery (P), Bakhresa Grain, Pembe, and Kitui Millers its customers.

Insiders also said that the journey of IVS Pinehurst - the ship ferrying the 29,990 tonnes of maize - to Mombasa started in Durban. Tracking tools indicate that the vessel departed Port Louis, Mauritius, on April 19 at about 7am Kenyan time, heading to Durban.

It arrived at the South African port city on April 28 at 5am Kenyan time before the cargo was loaded and its journey to Mombasa kicked off.

Some accounts suggest that the vessel picked up the cargo from Durban after another freighter had delivered it there earlier. It was received in Mombasa on Thursday.