KENYA – Kenya’s National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) has resolved to release 600,000 bags of subsidised maize to grain millers aimed at easing grain shortage in the country.

According to a Business Daily report, millers in the country have so far received over 400,000 bags while the remaining will be dispatched in due course.

In May this year, the NCPB said that it would release total of 3 million bags of maize worth US$69 million to maize millers but the deal was however delayed due to administrative concerns between the NCPB and the Strategic Food Reserve Committee.

This prompted a presidential intervention which saw NCPB release the US$10 million (Sh1 billion) worth of maize selling at Sh2,300 (US$23) for a 90-kilo bag against the market price of Sh3,300 (US$33).

Amid the dwindling stock of maize, the East African country was also considering to open duty-free maize imports from July this year to plug the grain shortage.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri, speaking to millers in May, said that strategies were in place, including waving of the 50 percent duty imposed grain from East African Community (EAC).

In the proposed budget for the next fiscal year, Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich indeed affirmed that the country did not scrap the 50 percent duty on imported maize coming from outside EAC.

Mr Kiunjuri, in an interview with a local daily, however, ruled out duty-free imports saying the government would not subsidise millers’ maize shipments this year.

Instead, he said, the government would work out the logistics so that millers import the grain on time to avoid biting shortage.

“We are watching the situation closely to ensure that proper mechanism for importation are put in place to avoid being caught unawares in the last minute,” Mr Kiunjuri said, adding only registered large scale millers will be allowed to import maize.

“This matter is being reviewed by Cabinet. There are indications that we may not have enough maize going forward,” Mr Rotich added.

According to Zakayo Magara, acting managing director of the National and Cereals Board, the millers would receive the 3 million bags of grain in tranches of 40:40:30 to enable the government monitors flour prices in the market.