A farmers’ lobby has expressed fears of possible flooding of the market with cheap maize after the Agriculture ministry opened a duty-free import window just three weeks to the harvesting period.
Cereal Growers Association said the maize imports could lock farmers out of the local produce market.
The lobby’s chairman, Fanuel Kruger, said the imports would have been done much earlier to avoid coinciding with the local harvest.
“We are not opposed to imports but the timing is not proper at all. Bringing in maize when the country is about to start harvesting would only spell doom to farmers,” said Mr Kruger.
The South Rift region is about to start harvesting this season’s main crop and the region is expected to bring to the market between four and five million bags of grain.
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri said last week that the country would allow traders to import 12 million bags of maize to tame the rising cost of maize flour that has now hit Sh120 for a two-kilogramme packet.
The move followed an unsuccessful appeal to large-scale farmers to release their stock to help stabilise flour prices.
The National Cereals and Produce Board is releasing three million bags of grain to millers to supplement the available limited stocks.
The State-subsidised maize is selling at Sh2,300 for a 90kg bag against the market price of Sh3,300 currently.
Of the 12 million bags to be imported, two million will be yellow maize meant for animal feeds.
Last week Association of Kenya Animal Feed Manufacturers (Akefema) urged the government to move with speed and approve importation of this variety to tame the rising cost of animal feeds.
“The window on imports of yellow maize from Black Sea nations will be coming to an end very soon and if the orders are not made now, then it means we will have to import from as far as Mexico, which will come at a higher price,” said Martin Kinoti, secretary general Akefema.
Mr Kinoti said people and animals have been competing for the same white maize as their source of food and that the situation is worsened in times of shortage as it is the case now.
Animal feed prices have hit a three-year high and they are expected to continue on an upward trend in the coming days if no action is taken by the State.
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