Kenya Left With Less Than Day's Worth of Corn After Drought

  • Reserves slump after 36,000 tons released to grain millers
  • Kenya had insufficient rains in crop-growing regions this year

Kenya’s reserves of corn dropped to less than a day’s worth of consumption after stocks of the staple grain were released to millers, the National Cereals and Produce Board said.

The reserve currently stands at 50,000 90-kilogram bags, equivalent to 4,500 metric tons, NCPB Managing Director Newton Terer said by phone Tuesday from the capital, Nairobi. The board released about 36,000 tons to millers last week, he said.

The NCPB is awaiting information from the Agriculture Ministry about how the reserve will be restocked, Terer said, declining to comment further. 

The government will make corn available to millers at 2,300 shillings ($22) per 90-kilogram bag, compared with the current market price of 4,620 shillings, Agriculture Secretary Willy Bett told reporters in the capital, Nairobi. The state plans to spend as much as 6 billion shillings on subsidies, which will drive retail prices of milled corn to 90 shillings for a two-kilogram packet from about 144 shillings, he said.

Lawmakers have asked Bett to resign for failing to address the shortage in good time, the Nairobi-based Daily Nation newspaper reported on Monday.

Kenya had insufficient rain in crop-growing areas in March and April, the Kenya Meteorological Department said Monday in a preliminary assessment of the March-May so-called long rains. Most weather stations reported receiving less than 75 percent of their seasonal long-term average, it said.

“The depressed rainfall over most agricultural areas in the country has resulted in poor crop performance and even crop failure in some regions,” it said.

Depleted Reserves

Kenya consumes about 288,000 tons of corn per month, according to the Cereal Millers Association, an industry body. Of that, about 135,000 tons is packaged and sold by millers, CMA Chairman Nick Hutchinson said in an interview on Tuesday.

Reserve corn sold to CMA members for 3,000 shillings per bag was enough for only 8-12 days and insufficient to drive retail prices down, the industry body said last week. Millers are now forced to buy from the market for almost 50 percent more.

Supply from Ethiopia is limited and costs 4,200-4,400 shillings per bag, according to CMA. Zambian imports that were yet to leave the southern African nation last week will probably sell at similar prices. While some shipments from Mexico are already at the port in Mombasa, the berthing of the first vessel will only take place on May 17 if the rainy weather permits, according to the statement. It could take as long as two weeks for that grain to reach millers.

“What NCPB gave us is peanuts,” Hutchinson said Tuesday, adding that authorities should be clear on when fresh imports are expected. “Do we get maize or not?”

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