Supremacy wars between the Strategic Food Reserve Oversight Board (SFROB) and the Ministry of Agriculture have deepened as the two entities disagree on the quantities of imports to be sanctioned.
The ministry is pushing for importation of more than 12.5 million bags while SFROB insists that six million bags would be sufficient for human consumption and animal feeds manufacturing.
SFROB claims that strong forces both within and outside the government with support from cartels and unscrupulous traders are pushing for the approval of 12.5 million bags with a view to making a killing from the same.
The ministry, however, argues that current stocks and expected production cannot sustain the country before the next harvest.
Crops Development Principal secretary Hamadi Boga in an exclusive interview over the weekend refuted claims that the ministry and the board are in disagreement.
“All of us are charged with the responsibility of ensuring the country is food secure. We are working on strategies to ensure we communicate effectively,” said Boga.
Recently, while touring Galana Kulalu Irrigation Project in Tana River County, Agriculture Cabinet secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri said the country is expected to suffer a 30 per cent maize production reduction owing to delayed rains and impact of fall armyworms in some regions.
According to the ministry the pest’s prevalence has been confirmed in 43 out of the 47 counties thus posing a great danger to food security.
In 2017, about 250,000 hectares of maize fields were infested. A survey conducted by multi-institutional technical team on FAW in September 2017, pegged the national average yield reduction due to the pest at 20 per cent.
The resultant yield loss, therefore, was estimated to be 1.05 million 90-kilogrammes bags, with a value of Sh3.15 billion.
Tug of war
Stakeholders in the industry fear that the tug of war might delay importation of maize leading to escalation of prices in the local market as it was witnessed in 2017 when the country faced severe drought prompting the government to introduce a Sh6 billion subsidy programme.
But, this time the government has vowed to only allow millers and traders to import duty free maize. However, the Cabinet is yet to sanction the imports even after the Ministry of Agriculture presented the proposal.
Any maize to be imported outside the Common Market for Southern and Eastern Africa (Comesa) attracts an import duty of 50 per cent. Some countries within Comesa like Zambia, Uganda, Tanzania and Zimbabwe are harvesting at the moment.
Currently maize flour prices range from Sh110 to Sh123 with most common brands retailing at an average of Sh122 while the prevailing average price of a 90-kg bag of maize stands at Sh3,340 in the local market.