State to buy 90kg bag of maize at Sh4,000

Agriculture CS Mithika Linturi. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi has announced that the government will purchase 1 million bags of maize, at Sh4,000 per 90kg bag.

Speaking when he appeared before the Senate Agriculture Committee on Thursday, Linturi said the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) will buy the maize for the National Strategic Food Reserve.

“We will be buying the maize from registered farmers who are in our database. NCPB stores are ready to take in maize,” he said.

The Cabinet Secretary noted that the country imports an average of 4 to 6 million bags of maize annually to meet the total demand for human consumption and animal feeds with most of the maize imported by the private sector and relief agencies.

Linturi said that in 2021 the country imported a total of 4.1 million bags compared to 4 million bags in 2020.

He noted that the poor performance of 2022 long rains in the Asal region coupled with below-average yields in 2022 resulted in the production of 34.6 million bags compared to 36.8 million bags in 2021.

The CS who appeared before the Senate Agriculture Committee to explain the reason as to why the government was planning to import 10 million bags of maize said that Kenya is not self-sufficient in maize production, even in a normal season year.

“The January 2023 National Maize Balance Sheet projection to end of April 2023 indicated a surplus of about 6.8 million bags, based on carryover stocks of 12.9 million bags; estimated 600,000 bags to be imported by private sector from the EAC region; and projected 2.1 million bags from duty-free imports outside of Comesa,” he said.

He told the committee chaired by Kirinyaga Senator James Murango that this stock balance was considered to be inadequate to take the country to the next significant harvest starting in August 2023, considering monthly utilization of about 3.5 million bags with the available surplus stocks could only last for about 4 months up to April 2023.

Linturi said that food insecurity in Kenya is driven by several factors key among them being over-reliance on rain-fed agriculture, vagaries of climate change and the weather that have contributed to the drastic change in our farming systems. Further, national food consumption needs have been increasing in tandem with population growth, amidst constrained production resources.

The CS explained that the government allows the importation of white non-GMO maize to cover for the shortfall in local production with occasional duty waivers and more imports when the deficit is high, however, the white non-GMO maize has been scarce and mainly sourced from Mexico, EAC and COMESA regions notwithstanding the premium prices. 

“Staple food prices across the country have remained comparably high, since April 2022, due to low local availability following successive below-average harvests, growing demand, high transportation costs and general inflation rates, the food inflation in August 2022 was at 15 per cent, higher than in 2021,” he said.

Linturiy regretted that food access in most marginal agricultural areas is constrained by lower-than-normal purchasing power due to sustained above-average prices and significantly low household incomes there has been a steady rise in maize prices in the last two years.

He noted that the prices of maize per 90kg bag increased from Sh2,500 to Sh2,850 in January 2022 to Sh3,900 to Sh4,000 in April and that it reached an unprecedented high of between Sh6,000 and Sh6,500 per 90kg bag in July 2022.

Linturi said that most of the surplus stocks after January have been available mainly amongst the farming households in the North Rift, parts of Western, and South Rift counties and parts of Central regions with some short rains season harvest expected in January/February in parts of Western and Nyanza regions will mainly support households in these regions.

“The Ministry of Agriculture tracks the national food security situation quarterly by analyzing the National Food Balance Sheet on a monthly basis taking into account both long rains and short rains production including import and utilization,” he said.

He announced plans to allow maize and rice importation from the region and facilitate further inflows from within and outside the East African Community and Comesa regions with the ministry having prepared a Cabinet Memo recommending for approval to allow duty-free importation of white maize to improve availability and accessibility with adequate lead time to evade a hunger crisis by mid-2023.

Linturi said that the Ministry recommended to the Cabinet to approve duty-free importation of 900,000 metric tonnes of white maize by registered millers and importers, starting from February 1 to April 30, to bridge the national deficit and avert an impending crisis from April 2023.

He said that the regulatory institutions have continued to monitor safety aspects of the imported maize and rice commodities according to Kenya standards with duty-free importation window recommendation would begin from March 2023 and continue for at least three months' period.

“The high cost of fertilizers has contributed to the high cost of food production in the country, thereby translating to the high cost of food in the Kenyan market, in order to alleviate the effects of high fertilizer prices on agricultural output and productivity which is undermining the achievement of food and nutrition security,” said Linturi.

He said that the National Government had availed Sh3.5 billion for a fertilizer subsidy kitty, 71,000 metric tonnes for the 2022 short rains season with the fertilizer made available to farmers during the ongoing short rains in 2022 through the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) depots across the country.

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