Kenya has implemented new trade policies aimed at fostering local markets and protecting the interests of maize and wheat farmers.
The government has banned the importation of these commodities in order to prevent the local market from being flooded with cheaply imported produce, which could lead to price instability.
This decision comes as a relief for maize and wheat farmers who have been struggling with low prices due to the influx of imported goods. By banning imports, the government hopes to create a more level playing field for local farmers and ensure that they receive fair prices for their crops.
President William Ruto has announced that his administration will only consider lifting the ban in the event of a shortage. He has also allocated 4 billion Kenyan Shillings to buy maize from farmers this season, particularly in anticipation of the expected El Niño rains.
Speaking at State House in Nairobi, President Ruto emphasised the need to protect farmers from price fluctuations in the market. He declared that no permits will be issued to millers for the importation of wheat or maize, with the goal of safeguarding the interests of local farmers.
During the meeting with a delegation from Narok and Samburu counties, led by Governors Patrick Ole Ntutu and Jonathan Leleliit, President Ruto urged farmers to refrain from selling their produce to middlemen at throwaway prices. He assured them that the government is actively working to mobilise produce at competitive prices.
According to data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, Kenya has consistently imported an average of 295,092 tonnes of maize per year over the past five years.
The annual maize requirement for the country is estimated to be 52 million bags, which is necessary for various purposes including human consumption, animal feed production, seed multiplication, and manufacturing of other products.
The Trans Nzoia County Executive Member for Agriculture, Phanice Khatundi, has stated that the current maize yield in the county is expected to reach 5.6 million bags this season. Out of this, approximately 2 million bags will be consumed locally, while an estimated 3.6 million bags will be released to the market. Ms. Khatundi has also assured that measures have been implemented to minimise post-harvest losses.
In Uasin Gishu County, it is projected that around 4.5 million bags of maize will be harvested, with more than 2.5 million bags being made available in the market.
Due to the country’s average production of 365,600 metric tonnes of maize against a consumption of 8.4 million 90 kg bags (equivalent to approximately 756,000 metric tonnes), Kenya has had to rely on imports to meet the deficit.
In the Rift Valley region, an average of 4.5 million bags of wheat was produced from 127,825 hectares of land planted during the previous season. However, in Uasin Gishu County, the area dedicated to wheat production has decreased from 40,000 hectares to 18,000 hectares as farmers have diversified into more profitable ventures such as maize, horticulture, and dairy farming. This decline in wheat production acreage has had a negative impact on the consumption and cost of wheat products, as highlighted in the devolved unit’s annual agriculture report.
According to the outgoing Agriculture Principal Secretary, Kello Harsama, the country is expecting a maize harvest of 44 million bags this season. Additionally, the North Rift region is anticipated to contribute an additional 23 million bags, thanks to the availability of affordable fertiliser through the government’s subsidy program.
President Ruto has issued a directive to procure yellow maize in order to address the challenges faced by dairy farmers due to the high costs of livestock feed caused by a shortage of fodder. The intention behind this importation is to alleviate the competition for white maize, which is primarily used for livestock feed.
Additionally, the Ministry of Agriculture has initiated the process of acquiring 100 dryers to assist farmers in drying their produce during this season, as concerns have been raised regarding potential post-harvest losses resulting from the El Niño rains. These dryers will be distributed to various counties within the next month, with Uasin Gishu County set to receive 12 new dryers.
The procurement of these dryers has been sourced from international suppliers, and the first batch is expected to arrive in the country within the next 30 days. The specific locations for the placement of these dryers will be determined in consultation with the county leadership. Furthermore, funds have been allocated to the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) to support farmers, with more than five dryers already available in different shops.
NCPB Managing Director Joseph Kimote has assured farmers that the agency is fully prepared to receive their produce once the government announces new prices. He emphasised that the agency will no longer issue cheques, but will instead utilise the funds that are made available. The NCPB has the capacity to handle up to 20 million bags of produce.