Maize shortage starts to bite as millers complain of poor supply
Posted Monday, May 7 2012 at 22:30
Maize shortage has started biting, with millers complaining of dwindling supply from farmers despite a 44 per cent price rise.
This comes at a time when the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) is storing less stocks than the numbers required for Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR).
The NCPB normally stores three million bags of maize under SGR, but was meant to increase the number of bags this year to eight million.
Currently, NCPB is has only 2.7 million bags under SGR.
NCPB managing director Gideon Misoi says the board is yet to receive more funds from the government to buy more maize.
“We are still waiting,” said Prof Misoi.
Barely two months later, the harsh reality of increased prices of maize flour is dawning upon Kenyans, with the country’s staple food having shot up to Sh120 from Sh92 last week.
The SGR meant to create equilibrium between the supply and demand for maize has hardly enough stocks to last the country for a month.
Last year, the shortage of maize saw the price of a 90 kilogramme bag of maize sell at nearly Sh6,000, making the price of a two-kilogramme packet of maize shoot from Sh80 to Sh150.
The government, through the Ministry of Special Programmes, issued Sh2 billion to NCPB which was used to purchase 600,000 bags of maize meant for SGR.
Millers are currently buying maize at Sh3,600 up from Sh2,500 in the past few weeks, but they are hardly receiving stocks.
A mill manager from one of the milling industries in Eldoret says that even with the attractive price, there are no queues of farmers jostling to sell their produce.
“Evidently there is no maize in the country because the price that we are offering currently would be enough to see us receive more maize from farmers,” said the manager who sought anonymity.
The current price of a 90 kilogramme bag of maize has gone beyond the Sh3,000 that the government has been offering farmers.
In an interview, chairman of the millers association Diamond Lalji said that it was too early to start speculating whether farmers are holding maize or if their efforts to transport maize from the farms have been hampered by the ongoing rains.
Mr Lalji, however, noted the possibility of a looming crisis cannot be ruled, out given the higher prices that they are offering and still no stocks are coming in.
“Well, farmers might have been hampered by the ongoing rains, but still, with this price and the planting needs that farmers have, they cannot hoard maize,” said Mr Lalji.
Mr Lalji says that if there is no maize, then the crisis that looms could be more serious compared to last year, because Malawi, a major exporter to Kenya of non-GMO white maize, has banned exports.