Maize flour prices remain high despite State assurance

Agriculture Principal Secretary Sicily Kariuki

Consumers are still buying maize flour at high prices despite the assurance of enough stock by the Government.

The price of a 2kg packet of maize flour has increased since January by 23.5 per cent to an average of Sh107.50 in May, from Sh87 in January.

Wholesale prices for a 90kg bag during the same period increased in major urban areas, save for Kisumu, where the same decreased to Sh2,880 from Sh3,300 in April. Agriculture Principal Secretary (PS) Sicily Kariuki said millers are yet to reduce maize flour prices despite Kenya having enough maize stock.

“The country has enough stock of grains to feed the population before the start of the next harvest in August this year. Equally, fresh vegetables and other short season crops have increased in supply - a situation helped by the long rains,” said Ms Kariuki in an interview in her Kilimo House office recently.

Last month, millers said the cost of flour will be determined by market forces. Ms Kariuki said recently that the country’s food situation is stable due to availability of food stocks in most markets from previous season harvest and imports.

“However, supply deficits have been noted in arid and semi-arid lands and pastoral markets located far away from major supply routes,” said Kariuki.

As at May 31, 2015, the PS said the national maize stocks stood at 7. million 90kg bags with farmers holding about 1.8 million bags, traders 213,916 bags, millers 754,732 bags and the National Cereals Produce Board 4.3 million bags.

Beans stock as at the end of the review period stood at 455,404 bags, wheat 461,564 bags and rice 206, 413 bags respectively. The Cereal Growers Association of Kenya (CGA) also accused millers of creating an artificial maize shortage to justify the flour price increase. “There was no shortage of maize in the country, but millers wanted to create that scenario to justify the increase in the cost of flour,” said CGA Chief Executive Anthony Kioko.

Recently, the State intervened by making part of the two-million-bag stock held as strategic grain reserves available to millers at Sh2,800, below the market price of Sh3,000, to tame skyrocketing prices of the staple food.

“The projected national availability of maize as at end of the July-August-September harvest 2015 will be 14.2 million bags, while consumption will reach 12.4 million bags, leaving the country with a surplus of 1.8 million bags,” noted Kariuki

The PS said a preliminary survey by agricultural officers indicates good crop performance in most agricultural areas, especially in the central and western highlands including the maize-basket areas of Trans Nzoia and Uasin Gishu. Kariuki predicts a harvest of more than 43 million bags by end of year.

The forecast for the June-July–August season indicates that the western highlands, Lake Victoria Basin, parts of Rift Valley and the coastal strip are likely to receive normal rainfall.