Expensive maize in Tanzania and Uganda contributed in sparking a sharp rise in the price of flour in Kenya as local millers cut reliance on grains from the neighbouring countries.
The latest food security report from the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries indicates that imports from neighbouring countries dropped to 205,350 bags in quarter one, down from 1.8 million in the same period last year.
This came as Kenyan farmers stepped up maize exports to Tanzania, worsening the cereal shortage locally that has seen flour prices rise by Sh15 for the two kilogram packet since February.
Data prepared by the Regional Agricultural Trade Intelligence Network (Ratin) shows that a 90-kg bag of maize retailed at Sh4,898 in Dar es Salaam, the highest unit price in East Africa.
The same quantity of maize currently fetches about 2,700 in Nairobi, an average of Sh2,661 in Kampala and Sh4,597 in Burundi.
“The supplies of maize have been tight in the market and millers are unable to get enough stocks, this situation is behind the rise in flour prices,” said an official of the Cereal Millers Association.
The government notes that the reduced imports of the various major food commodities signify relative adequacy of stocks.
“The cross-border imports decreased by 80 in the first three months of the year compared to the same period last year,” says the report.
Millers have been complaining of decreased supply of local stocks in the market and are banking on stocks from Tanzania, whose harvest season has come.
Kenya mainly depends on imports from Uganda and Tanzania to bridge a deficit of 20 million bags annually.
The government estimates that farmers held at least 10 million bags of maize by the end of April, a stock that would last up to early next month. Kenya’s long rains harvest starts in October, signalling continued rise in flour prices.
A two-kilogramme packet of Jogoo maize flour is retailing at Sh110 from Sh95 in January while Pembe is at Sh101 from Sh85. Flour prices had been falling since September.
Maize prices have a big effect on inflation in Kenya’s economy where it is the staple food and accounts for a significant share of poor households’ budget. Inflation stood at 5 per cent last month, down from 5.27 per cent in April.
Beans imports dropped 39 per cent in the four months to April compared to the same period a year earlier.