KENYA – Kenya has imported food items worth US$207.119m, a 58.33% increase from US$130.812m witnessed in January 2017, as a result of food deficit attributed to prolonged drought conditions experienced last year, according to a data by the Kenya national Bureau of Statistics.

Following poor rainfall and insufficient food production, prices of basic commodities shot up, calling for intervention from the government.

As a result, subsidies and a waiver on import duties was announced between mid-May and December on imported commodities such as maize, milk powder and sugar to meet demand.

According to the statistics, food imports more than doubled to US$2.425 billion, representing a growth of 113.33% over 2016.

Last year, food imports rose as high as overtaking fuel and machinery in the third quarter of the year, seeing an increased stock of key food items after the government eliminated duty on maize and sugar to tame shortage.

Apart from suspending duty on maize, the State also released US$59.46m to ensure a standard price for flour across the country.

KNBS said that the race to build a safe level of national food stock widened merchandise trade deficit by 32.5% to US$2.87 billion from US$2.16 billion in the third quarter of 2016.

However, export of food and beverage brought home hard currency worth US$629.28m in the third quarter of 2017, up from US$548.02m in the same period of the previous year.

Kenya gets most of its imports mainly from South Africa and the neighboring Uganda.

According to statistics, Uganda surpassed South Africa to become the largest exporter of goods especially food items into the country.

In January, Uganda is indicated to have more than doubled exports into Kenya from US$21.60m to US$68.87 million, largely comprising cereals such as maize, which shot up nearly two-fold.

A total of 46,010 tonnes of maize were bought from Uganda in January, a 78.4% jump compared with 25,791 tonnes in December.

“This increase was due to the average second rain season harvest coupled with the attractive prices offered in the Kenyan urban markets,” the Eastern African Grain Council (EAGC) said in the report.