KENYA – The Ministry of Agriculture in Kenya has halted importation of 11.1 million bags of maize from Mexico and will instead be importing the commodity from Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) countries.

The decision comes as different State agencies seek further clarification on whether the reported shortage justified a waiver of tax to ship in the grains duty-free.

The Agriculture Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri had said that the country was to allow importation of up to 12.5 million bags before October to plug in a looming shortage.

According to a Business Daily report, the state was now planning to import up to 18.8 million bags of maize from Tanzania, Uganda and Mexico.

In a letter issued by the Agriculture Principal Secretary Hamadi Boga said that the state had identified specific companies that he said were ready to sell the grain to Kenyan millers.

“The government of Mexico has informed us about its capacity to sell up to 1.0 million tonnes (11.1 million bags) of white maize to Kenya from the State of Sinaloa,” says Prof Boga in the letter sent to maize millers.

He indicates that the Agriculture Ministry had received assurances from tens of companies from Uganda and Tanzania to supply a total of 7.7 million bags of maize.

“Global Neo-Business Opportunities Limited, a Tanzania-based company has 5.5 million bags of maize for immediate importation to Kenya.

“The Grain Council of Uganda has committed to supply Kenya with 2.2 million bags of Maize between August and December 2019,” Prof. Boga wrote to the millers.

Prof Boga in the latter says the Agriculture Ministry is committed to facilitate and support the maize importation process in order to boost local supplies.

Mr Kiunjuri now insists that the country will not import maize from Mexico adding that “we are going to scout the grain from Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) countries,” Mr Kiunjuri.

The Strategic Food Reserve Fund (SFR) Chairman Noah Wekesa and Rift Valley region legislators however insist that there was enough maize in the country to last until the coming harvest.

They have hence advised against duty-free imports which would have hit local farmers hard by depressing prices of the grain.

In March, the ministry said there were 21 million bags of maize in the country that had been forecasted to last until the end of June, with deficit having to be filled through imports.

The CS had made a case for urgent maize imports since May, following the failure of the long rains season which cut the harvest sharply.