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Maize imports arrive to ease shortage

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 8 – The current maize flour
shortage is expected to ease next week when the first consignment of
maize imports is offloaded and distributed to millers.

Cereal Millers Association Chairman Diamond Lalji revealed on Friday
that they had largely managed to overcome the supply constraints they
were facing and which are responsible for the current hike in flour
prices to Sh150 per 2kg packet.

“Subsequently, every week we are expecting small consignments coming in
because there are a lot of handicaps at the port and also because the
maize is carted from Malawi and Zambia by lorry to the port of Maputo
(Mozambique) and then loaded onto ships, so that’s taking time,” he

The logistical challenges have delayed the imports for nearly three
weeks causing retail outlets to ration the maize flour which is Kenyans’
main staple meal and also led the government to open up the importation
to everybody who can afford to it.

The imports are meant to bridge the country’s maize deficit which is
estimated at four million bags and which has largely been blamed on the
drought situation in the country as well as a seed shortage that hit
farmers in the last planting season causing a drop in crop yields.

This cyclical food shortage afflicting the country every two and a half
years, points to the lack of planning on the government’s side which
forces it to resort to measures such as duty-free directives to shore up
the country’s grain levels and stabilise their prices.

With food prices going beyond the reach of many Kenyans and others
facing starvation, industry players are now lobbying to have the
government allow the importation of genetically modified foods.

The government seems to have bowed to pressure and is next week expected
to gazette some regulations that will allow registered millers to bring
in GM maize, a move that is likely to spark protests.

If they get their way, the millers have pledged to self -regulate and
ensure that the maize does not get in the hands of the farmers.

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“As an association, we have agreed to have our own internal controls to
ensure that millers can account for every bag imported into this
country,” vowed the chairman adding that the product will be clearly

The importation of the GM maize is also expected to open up a window for
GM proponents to lobby for the commercial production of these crops to
enhance food security.

They cite countries such as South Africa, Burkina Faso and Egypt that
have already started producing genetically modified foods and thus
increased their production and ensure that they are able to feed their

Kenya has been planting some varieties of genetically modified crops
such as maize and cassava on pilot basis for the last ten years, which
many experts say is a sign that the country is now ready to move to the
next step of going large scale.

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