KENYA – Kenya is set to open a window for duty-free import of 12.5 million bags of maize to meet its local demand following a shortfall of the commodity.

The Treasury is expected to allow a three months import  of the grain at the at the end July which will last until end of October, in time for the next harvest, Andrew Tuimur, the Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) in the Ministry Agriculture says.

“We anticipate to begin importation of maize at the end of this month. As we speak, the country has enough maize stock to last us a month,” said Dr Tuimur while addressing the Senate committee on Agriculture.

The country will import 10 million bags of white maize for household consumption and an additional 2.5 million of yellow maize for processing of animal feeds, a Business Daily update reveals.

While importation will be done by private companies, Dr Tuimur maintained that the ministry is highly cautious on the move in order to ensure that the country gets the right quantities of maize and of good quality.

The Treasury has to pass a gazette notice allowing importation of duty-free maize, which otherwise attracts a 50 percent tax under the East African Community customs union.

The country has encountered irregular imports of the grain in the past years where the commodity flooded the local market, causing local farmers to suffer a prolonged slump in prices.

“Maize is a very sensitive crop. I want to assure the country that we have maize to last us to end of July. But we are thinking of importation to see us through the period August to November and we are waiting for the necessary approvals,” Dr Tuimur added.

Dr Tuimur, however, ruled out offering a subsidy to maize millers as was the case last year when the flour processors got cheap stocks from the National Cereals and Produce Board.

He said the country currently has 2 million bags of maize in the Strategic Food Reserve (SFR), out of which 1.5 million will be available to millers if they exhaust their stocks.

Millers have bought 70 percent of the 1.7 million bags of maize that the government offered them. Another 300,000 has been set aside for animal feeds. About 3.5 million of the 90 kg bags of the SFR maize has been released to the market to curb rising prices.