KENYA – A regional grain body and a US aid agency are working with millers and traders to import cheap maize from Ethiopia to ease the current shortage of the commodity that has hit the country.

East African Grain Council (EAGC) and the USAID trade hub want to link Kenyan buyers to Ethiopian sellers to import the grain into the country.

Last week, EAGC executive director Gerald Masila was in Ethiopia to discuss the trade deal while the Ethiopian delegation will be in the country this week for negotiation with millers.

Ethiopia has a surplus of 1.5 million bags that they are willing to sell to Kenya.

“Ethiopia had a bumper crop and they are ready to export the surplus, we have been in talks with the USAID to link traders and millers into buying this maize,” said Mr. Masila.

The negotiations come with a price of Sh2,500 ($24.14) per bag. However, the produce is expected to land in Nairobi at between Sh3,000 ($28.97) and Sh3,400 ($32.83) for a 90 kilogramme bag.

Currently, millers are buying a 90 kilogramme bag at Sh3,700 ($35.72).

The Kenyan delegation, which will include government officials, is expected to visit Ethiopia on March 7 to seal the deal. It is expected that the State will waive the 50 per cent Common External Tariff that is imposed on grain imported outside of East African Community member states.

The EAGC and USAID roles will be to link buyers to sellers and negotiation of tax exemption on maize to be imported.

This situation according to millers however may get out of hand if plans by the government to bring in imports from Mexico continue to drag along.

Kenya normally imports grain from Uganda and Tanzania to bridge the deficit in production but with Tanzania having restricted export of maize while Uganda did not register a good crop in the last season, the little that is available usually finds its way to South Sudan where it fetches a good price.

Apart from these two countries, Kenya also imports maize from Malawi and Zambia.

However, these two countries have registered a poor crop too in the last two seasons owing to a dry spell that cut their production.

February 19, 2017;