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Maize shortage reprieve as NCPB ordered to release one million bags

The government has ordered the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) to immediately release a million bags of maize to millers and ease pressure on the price of maize flour which had increased beyond the psychological Sh100 per packet mark.

This follows recent media reports about the increase in the cost of maize flour, aflatoxin infestations and maize shortage claims, putting the Agriculture ministry on the spot. Maize millers had warned that there were insufficient maize stocks in the market, adding that they were waiting for harvests from Tanzania this week, which would have increased the cost per 90 kilogramme bag, leading to a further spike in price of maize flour.

NCPB maize will be sold at Sh2,500 per bag ex-depot, in what the ministry hopes will trigger price reduction in the cost of maize flour. The price of a 90-kilogramme bag of maize currently ranges between Sh2,700 and 3,000 locally. The move by Agriculture Cabinet secretary Willy Bett is also expected to entice traders and farmers who might be holding maize supplies to sell their stock.

Speaking yesterday to the Agriculture Committee of Parliament shortly after another meeting with cereal millers, CS Bett said the country has maize enough to feed the country before the next harvest in May from South Rift.

“As at the end of May 2016, the country had an estimated maize stock of 9,446,920 bags, with farmers holding 4,455,600 bags, traders 2,002,180 bags, millers 585,240 bags and NCPB 2,378,760 bags,” he said.

Bett said that the so called ‘bad maize’ was ‘just off-colour maize’ stock which had been blocked for long in the NCPB silos by the former trustees of the Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR), but the stock had now reduced from 400,000 bags to 104,000 bags following disposal arrangements by the new trustees, Strategic Food Reserve (SFR).

With Sh2.2 billion in the possession of the SFR, coupled with Sh1.6 set aside by Treasury for the purchase of maize, the committee was told that the ministry will go ahead and purchase more fresh maize from farmers.

Sale of the million bags from NCPB will also raise another Sh2.5 billion from millers, which will come in handy in meeting the country’s four million strategic maize reserves. The agriculture ministry said that going forward, millers and other stakeholders will now be part of efforts to strengthen the existing aflatoxin co-ordination unit to curb infestation.

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