Maize stock reserves enough for half day

KENYA – Maize at Kenya’s strategic grain reserves will this week fall to 50,000 90kg-bags, enough to feed the country for half a day, underlining the magnitude of the food crisis in the country.

The reserve, which is expected to hold five million bags to cushion the country from food shortages, has been depleted by the recent release of 1,050,000 bags to millers to help curb the runaway flour prices.

This means the State will turn to imports should it need maize for relief purposes given the weakened position of the grain reserves of National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB).

It also dims the government hand in the fight to lower flour prices given the State has recently turned to strategic grain reserves to cool the price of the staple crop, currently retailing at record levels.

“We are yet to tabulate, but the figure should fall to about 50,000 bags after we released more bags to the large millers last Friday,” NCPB managing director Newton Terer told Business Daily Monday in a phone interview.

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“The saving grace is that imports are landing at Mombasa port.”

The 322,222 bags of Mexican maize arrived at the Mombasa port last Thursday and another consignment of 416,666 bags is expected in weeks.

Inadequate stocks

Millers say the imported maize is inadequate to cut flour prices because they will last for about eight days for a country that consumes about 100,000 bags daily or three million monthly.

The cost of a two-kilogramme packet of maize flour had dropped from a high of Sh153 last month to Sh120 a fortnight ago following government intervention to release grain from Strategic Food Reserve, but it has now risen to Sh144.

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Millers expect the packet of maize flour to fall to Sh125 in late June or early July when the stock of maize available locally is expected to meet the country’s needs.

The NCPB will have to wait until September when the harvest seasons start to replenish the strategic grain reserves.

The expensive food including sugar, flour and vegetables has become a political liability for President Uhuru Kenyatta as he seeks a second term in August 8 elections. High cost of food saw inflation jump to 11.48 in April from 10.28 in March.

May 16, 2017: Business Daily

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