As famine bites, Kenya starts importing duty-free maize, rice
The sticky issue of grain importation does not seem to go away as Kenya adjusts to plug a biting food shortage following a prolonged period of inadequate harvests in the past two years.
The government, through the State Department for Crop Development, has notified players in the industry that Kenya will open a six-month window for the import of duty-free white maize and milled rice starting February next year.
Principal Secretary State Department for Crop Development capped maize imports at 900,000 metric tons while the milled rice ceiling was set at 600,000 metric tonnes.
“An import duty waiver will be granted for millers and traders to import a total of 900,000 metric tons of white maize grain and 600,000 metric tons of milled rice from February 2023 to August 2023 to enable the Country have adequate stocks to last until next harvest from July- August 2023,” read the notice.
Grain importation is a seemingly feasible strategy to lessen high food prices in the immediate term as President William Ruto’s government sets out to easen the high cost of living burdening millions of households.
“The duty waiver shall apply to white maize and milled rice imported into the country by 6th August, 2023, by millers and traders,” the ministry said, adding that the registration of millers and traders keen on the deal ends in the next 15 days.
Earlier, pronouncements by Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria would have seen East Africa’s largest economy import 10 million bags of genetically modified maize (duty-free, as well) to bridge deficits in the local market, but the decision was suspended by the High Court.
Read also: Court puts GMO maize import plan on freeze
The prolonged drought gripping the country has seen the cost of the staple maize flour soar to an average of Kes200 in November for a two-kilogramme packet, from Kes130 at the start of the year.
President Ruto indicated that the fight to lower the high cost of food is a long-term one, and requested more time to tackle the problem through the provision of subsidized fertilizers to farmers.
“We shall reduce the cost of living, just give me one year to deal with it,” Dr Ruto told Kibera slum dwellers in Nairobi last month.