Kenya’s manufacturers have expressed their worry about the looming food crisis in the country amidst the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine that began on February 25.
The country is experiencing a wheat and maize shortage. Ukraine and Russia are among the world’s largest producers of wheat.
Food shortage has been coupled by the persistent drought and global supply chain disruption owing to the Ukraine-Russia crisis and COVID-19 pandemic.
In a joint statement from the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) and several manufacturers among others, the Eastern Africa Grain Council (EAGC) and United Grain Millers Association (UGMA) warned that the devastation is likely to heighten the prices of these commodities and subsequently, worsen inflation.
“Wheat and maize are the main staple food for Kenya’s population if left unchecked it will lead to a devastating food crisis. “
As part of the effort to address the crisis, the manufacturers have asked the government to immediately form a committee of four Cabinet Secretaries drawn from the Ministry of Industrialization and Trade and that of Agriculture to expedite solutions to mitigate the wheat and maize crisis in the country.
Others are the National Treasury, and the Ministry of East African Community and Regional Development.
Kenya produces approximately 100,000 metric tonnes of wheat against an annual demand of 2.4 million metric tonnes while maize production is estimated at 3.2 million metric tons per year against the consumption of 3.8 million metric tonnes.
According to the manufacturers, Kenya relies heavily on imported wheat indicating that 96 percent of it consumed in the country is sourced from imports.
The manufacturers urged the government to grant full duty exemption to bonafide food and feed millers charged on wheat for a period of 12 months to cushion consumers and local farmers
Wheat attracts an import duty import rate of 35 percent, however, millers are allowed to import wheat at 10 percent under the Duty Remission Scheme subject to approval by the Ministry of Agriculture. Maize attracts a 50 percent import duty rate. This is despite the government issuing periodic exemptions to approved millers to bridge the deficit.
The manufacturers now want the government to diplomatically and bilaterally negotiate with Zambia and Tanzania to allow the importation of 6 million bags of maize and ensure efficient and effective trade facilitation.
With the high cost of transporting produce from neighbouring countries, which ultimately drives up the price of finished products, the manufacturers have urged the state to provide transport and logistics for the importation of maize from these countries.
The lobby groups further called for the immediate release of a modified gazette notice to allow duty-free importation of European Union Standard maize, soya bean meal among others, by bona fide animal feed millers.