Kenya risks maize crisis as traders step up South Sudan sales via Uganda


Maize being delivered to the National Cereals and Produce Board depot in Eldoret. PHOTO | JARD NYATAYA

Traders from Kenya are exporting maize to South Sudan via the Uganda border in what is likely to worsen the food situation in the country after a production decline this year.

The Ministry of Agriculture said it has received information from the National Intelligence Service (NIS) regarding an "abnormal" movement of maize from Kenya to Uganda.

Agriculture secretary Willy Bett said there is high demand for maize in the war-torn South Sudan with a 90-kilogramme bag selling at not less than Sh3,200 as opposed to Sh3,000 locally.

"We have received intelligence from the security agencies that the movement of maize to Uganda is more than normal this year with suspicion that this grain is finding its way to South Sudan," he said.

Mr Bett said he had talked to the Inspector-General of Police and the Kenya Revenue Authority officials to control grain export to Uganda, noting that NIS is compiling information on the amount of maize that could have crossed the border.

He said even though there is free movement of goods in Kenya, sensitive products such as food should not be exported without approval from the relevant State agencies.

Customs officials normally restrict export of food items without a permit from the Ministry of Agriculture. Tanzania, which is one of Kenya's major importmarket for grain, has recently issued restrictions on maize exports.

Mr Bett said if not controlled, the exports would adversely affect local food stocks. The ministry has projected that this year's harvest will be less by six million bags due to erratic weather patterns that affected maize at the initial stages.

Tanzania and Uganda also expect a drop in maize production, according to a research by Egerton University's Tegemeo Institute.

This would force Kenya to import the grain from countries other than the East African states. The stocks at the National Strategic Food Reserve have been depleted to the lowest level in the last six years, at a time when 1.3 million Kenyans face starvation.

A quarterly report by the Ministry of Agriculture in October indicated that there are 731,000 bags of maize at the National Cereals and Produce Board, after the government in June ordered the release of substantial amount to millers to tame rising cost of flour.

The National Strategic Food Reserve should hold three million bags at any time for emergencies such as famine in the arid and semi-arid regions.


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