Ministry of Agriculture

Only one month maize cover left as State yet to pay millers Sh4bn

The country had only 15 million bags of maize as at March 1 even as the State delayed paying millers Sh4 billion under the subsidy scheme, reducing their capacity to stock up.

The statistics from the food balance sheet report by the Ministry of Agriculture means the State will soon have to open up for imports to bridge the deficit.

Kenya says the maize will last up to May with the deficit expected to be filled through cross-border imports as a short-term measure.

Chief Administrative Secretary in the ministry Andrew Tuimur said the government has put in place appropriate measures to ensure the shortfall does not affect the cost of the staple.

“The stocks of maize as at March 1 is enough to last up to May,” said Dr Tuimur.

The government through National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) is holding about 3.3 million bags with the rest being in possession of millers and farmers.

Millers, however, say they have not been stocking of late given that the government is yet to pay them Sh4 billion they incurred in importing maize during the subsidy programme that ended in December last year, affecting their cash flow.

This implies that farmers are currently holding more than half of the produce in the country. The NCPB stopped buying maize from growers amid long queues, citing lack of storage space.

Dr Tuimur said millers’ dues were factored in the supplementary budget and that they will be paid once the cash has been approved by Parliament.

Millers argue that their activities have been paralysed and they are not able to stock. They are instead buying small quantities for immediate use.

The administrator said logistical challenges have made it hard for the government to purchase more maize as the depots in Moi’s Bridge and Eldoret are full, but plans are underway to create more room.

Imports from Uganda have been growing since October last year following a bumper crop in the neighbouring country amid tight supply of the grain in Kenya.

Data from East Africa Grain Council (EAGC) indicate cross-border trade between the two countries increased from 1,408 tonnes in the fourth quarter of 2016 to 47,563 tonnes in the same period last year.

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