2.6m bags of maize released from reserve to avert unga crisis



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The Agriculture ministry announced Thursday that it had released 2.6 million bags of maize from the strategic reserves to millers just as Kenyans were beginning to stare at a food crisis following a sharp rise in the price of flour.

Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri also said imports were expected from Tanzania to address the current shortage.

“There is no maize crisis! We have been favoured because there is some maize coming from Tanzania. However, this might not last long and this is why we are encouraging our farmers to plant the short-seasoned crops at this time we are experiencing some rains,” he told the Nation in an interview shortly after meeting millers in Nairobi.

The price of a 2kg bag has increased by up to Sh40 across the country, as millers complained about an acute shortage of maize.

In Eldoret, a 2kg packet of flour was selling at between Sh115 and Sh122, up from Sh80 and Sh75.

“We expect the prices to go up due to the acute shortage of maize supply that has hit most markets in the region,” said Ms Jackeline Atieno, a customer in a supermarket.

In Mombasa, most supermarkets were selling a packet of flour at between Sh130 and Sh150, depending on the brand.

Ms Dorcas Nzembi, a resident of Tudor, said the high prices of flour had raised the cost of living.

“Even basic food is becoming expensive. The government should now start prioritising the basic needs of residents and ensure the cost of food and water comes down. We are currently spending a lot of money on food,” Ms Nzembi said.

Nyeri hasn’t been spared either, with a 2kg packet of maize flour selling at an average price of Sh120, up from Sh95.

In Nakuru, the prices have also risen drastically and a bag costs Sh122, up from Sh90.

Nairobi consumers also contend with this hike in prices of the staple as they now have to spend from Sh112 to Sh147 for their favourite brands of ugali flour.

In Kisumu, Kakamega and Kisii, the prices are similarly skyrocketing.

An employee at United Millers in Kisumu, one of the largest maize flour suppliers in the region, told the Nation that there has been a decrease in the supply of maize to the miller.

A 2kg packet of Hostess maize flour goes for Sh150 at Naivas, Tuskys and Choppies supermarkets, while the same packet of Jogoo, Hodari and Dola goes for Sh122.

The cheapest among the brands is Kifaru, which goes for Sh117.

In Kakamega, Hostess was selling at Sh148 while Ndovu was the cheapest at Sh116.

Other brands included Amaize at Sh148, Pembe Sh119 and Dola Sh122. The popular Jogoo brand was selling at Sh121 while Hodari was going for Sh120.

In Kisii, a 2kg packet sold at different prices depending on the brand.

Jogoo sold at Sh125, up from its previous price of Sh115. Ugali went for Sh110, having registered a Sh5 rise, as well as Mfalme. Dola sold at Sh115, also up by Sh5, and Pembe at its normal price of Sh120.

Millers say they have recorded the highest prices for a bag of dry maize since the beginning of the year. A 90kg bag was retailing at Sh4,100 in Mombasa, with a source from Mombasa Maize Millers raising concern over the shortage of the commodity.

“Every day we get different prices for maize and in the past three weeks it has risen by more than Sh1,000. If intervention measures are not put in place, we will record the highest price ever in the next few weeks,” said the worker.

He added: “With these persistent changes of maize prices, the cost has to be transferred to the consumers.”

The situation was the same in other regions across the country where the price of a bag of maize has increased from an average of Sh2,800 to Sh3,000 as more millers entice farmers with prompt payment for the crop.

In Kitale, maize prices have increased from Sh2,600 to Sh3,000 a bag. In Kisumu it is selling at Sh3,200.

The government, through the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB), had offered Sh2,300 per 90kg bag this season and planned to buy two million bags, but failed to achieve the target.

NCPB communication officer Titus Maiyo said the board bought 417,000 bags.

Following Mr Kiunjuri’s announcement that NCPB will release the maize to millers at Sh2,300 per bag, the prices of flour are expected to drop.

The minister urged millers to sell flour at no more than Sh90 a bag.

Large-scale millers under the Cereal Millers Association will receive 50 percent (1.1 million 90kg bags) from the cereals board, while small-scale operators under the United Grain Millers Association will get 35 percent (674,000 bags).

Small-scale millers like posho mills will receive 15 percent while schools and other government institutions will receive 500,000 bags.

CMA has a milling capacity of 6, 597 tonnes per day, while small-scale millers have a milling capacity of 4,200 tonnes.

Reports by Brian Okinda, Boniface Mwangi, Kevin Rotich, Cynthia Wambugu, Barnabas Bii, Allan Koech, Sefu Sabila, Anthony Kitimo, Benson Amadala, Donna Atola and Benson Ayienda


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