West Pokot traders, residents seek permission to import cheap maize from Uganda

Bags of Maize on sale in Uasin Gishu County. [Christopher Kipsang, Standard]

raders and locals in West Pokot want the government to let them import maize from Uganda to mitigate high cost of maize flour.

The traders told The Standard that maize from Uganda was cheaper and a majority of them were crossing into the neighbouring country to access the commodity.

The locals now prefer maize flour from Uganda, which they claim is not only cheaper but also free from aflatoxin.

Over the last couple of months, an influx of West Pokot residents seeking cheaper goods have been reported in Karita, Amudat, Kanyerus, Bukwo and Moroto in Uganda.

Geoffrey Lipale, a local, said two kilogrammes of maize flour across the border costs Sh140 compared to Sh220 in shops on the Kenya side.

“North Pokot residents consume sugar, rice and flour from Uganda. We don't buy for sale, but it's for household consumption. So we are allowed to cross over and get the commodities,” he said.

He added that the government should lift the ban on maize importation from Uganda.

“We cannot die when there is enough food in our neighbourhood. Our border is not closed and is easily accessible,” he said.

He added that low cost of production in Uganda meant cheaper consumer goods, citing low cost of fertilisers which retail at Sh2,000 per bag compared to Sh7,300 in shops in West Pokot.

“The taxes in Uganda are lower which has kept cost of farm inputs affordable,” he added.

Julius Lemakwang, a teacher at Kasei Primary School, said maize had become scarce, and they buy a kilo at Sh110.

“Although maize in Uganda is cheaper, prices have started to rise due to high demand from Kenyans,” he said.

He said many schools risk closing early because of hunger and pleaded with the government to supply relief food to schools.

Julius Merikit said most residents hold Kenyan and Ugandan identification documents for ease of movement.

He noted that many trading centres in the region are flooded with Ugandan products.

Mark Lotee, the local Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry chair, asked the government to allow importation of maize and other goods to ease cost of living for locals.