Maize imports fall as traders wait for duty-free window

Importers keen on cashing in on the duty-free window for maize imports later this month cut back maize imports in the first three months of the year, new data shows.

According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, imports of raw maize fell by 82 per cent in the first quarter despite a biting shortage of the country’s main staple due to delayed rains.

KNBS said the country imported only 29,664 tonnes of raw maize in the first three months of this year compared with 299,462 tonnes of the grain in a similar period last year.

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“In the first quarter of 2019, the value of imports declined by 3.9 per cent to Sh421.2 billion from Sh438.5 billion in the first quarter of 2018. This was mainly on account of declines in the value of maize and iron and steel imports by 82.4 per cent and 15.8 per cent to Sh1.1 billion and Sh22.4 billion respectively,” said KNBS.

Importers are waiting for the Government to open the duty-free window for maize imports from this month to plug the shortage in the supply of the grain, with prices hitting a five-year high in recent months.

Between April and May, wholesale maize prices rose by as much as 23 per cent amid expectations of a fall in supply.

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“In Kenya, prices are expected to remain elevated and will trend near the five-year average in the production markets of North-Rift. In other markets, prices are expected to be higher than last year’s levels,” said East Africa Grain Council in a report.

The National Drought Management Authority has warned that the number of people facing a food crisis in the country could reach two million this month due to the effects of a prolonged drought that affected food production and caused prices to soar.

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People needing food assistance, the agency said, will increase from 1.6 million in May.

“The food security situation has worsened,” said the authority in a recent report.

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