The Government has been told to adequately prepare for the importation of maize before July when the country is set to run out of its stock.
Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development, a public think-tank, said in a statement that importation of the cereal will help shield consumers from the ravages of the ongoing drought even as it averts a defective subsidy programme as the one of 2017.
Already, in the last two weeks, retailers have adjusted up prices for the 2kg bag to Sh120, up from Sh90.
According to Tegemeo, things are so dire that the country will be left with so little, if any, stock of maize by July, a situation Tegemeo wants the Government to quickly remedy by arranging for importation of the cereal to plug the deficit, in addition to tracking and making available data that would be useful in helping the government make critical decisions on food security.
“For instance, what amounts should the country target import in the second half of the year? From which countries, given that neighbouring countries are unlikely to have the expected quantities to fill up the deficit?” said Tegemeo.
In the three scenarios that the think-tank built, the most optimistic based on Kenya Revenue Authority import numbers, with a balance of 3.6 million bags projected by July 31.
All of the three scenarios pointed out that the country had adequate stocks to last until the 2019 long rains season harvest.
“However, the production in the short rains was much lower than expected, necessitating a revision downwards,” read in part the report.
However, members of the National Assembly from maize growing areas warned against maize imports, noting that farmers still held a lot of maize.
They asked the Government to purchase the current stocks at a market rate of Sh3,500.
The price of maize flour has dramatically gone up by around 40 per cent, in what some observers have attributed to the hoarding of the cereal which is critical for the preparation of Kenya’s staple dish- ugali.
Millers have decried the lack of maize in the market, a situation they say has forced some of them to hike prices of the unga.
Tegemeo, in its assessment, found no evidence of scarcity of maize. The Egerton University-affiliated institution blamed the current artificial scarcity to Government’s unpredictable intervention and the slow response when it intervenes.
“According to the January Food Security report by the Ministry, farmers still hold a significant proportion of the maize stocks. For the last six months, they have faced depressed prices averaging Sh1,500 per bag. Many farmers will bet on rising prices and are likely to continue holding on to their stocks until the right price is offered,” said Tegemeo in a statement.