NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
Consumers in Kenya have to dig deeper
into their pockets to buy maize, whose prices have hit a new
high amid decline in cross-border imports from neighbouring
Tanzania and Uganda.
A 90kg bag of the staple widely
consumed across the East African nation is currently going for
between 30 U.S. dollars and 39 dollars in different urban areas.
Prices are lower in the breadbasket regions of the Rift
Valley while highest in the capital Nairobi, where a 90kg bag is
going at 39 dollars. On the other hand, the cost of a 2kg pack
of maize flour has hit 1.1 dollars, up from one dollar mid last
Dealers are blaming the surge in prices from an average of 25
dollars last October to low supply both from within and across
Maize production in the breadbasket declined to 16 million
bags last season from 21 million, according to the Ministry of
Agriculture, due to erratic rains, diseases and high cost of
inputs like fertiliser, which compelled some farmers to forego
However, of all the factors, poor rains hit farmers most.
Sometime in July last year, the rains disappeared after many
farmers had top-dressed their crops leading to fertiliser
burning the plants because it could not be absorbed into the
soil to release nutrients.
"Maize is slowly turning out to be gold because it is
becoming hard to come by. I am buying my stock from a dealer in
Nakuru at 30 dollars per 90kg bag, which is 5 dollars higher as
compared to other years. Prices should need not be higher at
this time," Simon Mwangi, a trader in Nairobi, said Wednesday.
From across the borders, data from the East African Grain
Council, shows that imports at various border points have
dwindled to negligible levels.
For instance, at the Busia border in western Kenya, imports
from Uganda currently stand at between nil and 10 metric tonnes
(MT) each day, down from a high of 200 MT months ago.
Bernard Moina, an agricultural officer in Kitale, western
Kenya, noted that besides low imports from neighbouring
countries, the current shortage has been exacerbated by the
premium price the government offered farmers making many sell
their maize to the cereals board for keep in the strategic
"Last year the government bought maize at 30 dollars per bag,
up from 26 dollars luring most farmers to its side but the move
destabilised the market. With low imports, prices will continue
going up," he said.
Kenya is maize deficit, with the country consuming up to four
million 90kg bags a month, but produces an average of 40 million
bags during the long-rains season. It further imports every year
about 20 million bags to bridge the gap.
The East African nation’s inflation stood at 6.35 percent in
December, a marginal decline from 6.68 percent, but despite the
drop, food inflation rose 1.3 percent during the month and 11
percent in the last one year due to increase in prices of