- Price increase blamed on delayed rains.
- CS Mohammed says millers to get supplies until the current shortage is addressed.
By JACQUELINE KUBANIA
The government has released maize stocks held by the National Cereals and Produce Board to arrest a rise in the price of flour across the country.
The announcement comes at a time the retail price of a two-kilogramme bag of maize flour has reached a high of Sh104.50, compared with Sh88 in January.
Speaking to journalists at Kilimo House in Nairobi, acting Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Adan Mohammed said the NCPB has entered into an agreement with maize millers to provide them with the cereal until the current shortage is addressed.
“We will sell maize from the Strategic Grain Reserve to millers at Sh2,800 to stabilise the market and prevent any further increases in the price of maize flour,” said Mr Mohammed.
He added that the nearly 20 per cent rise in the price was triggered by an artificial shortage created by farmers and traders who are hoarding maize so as to sell it later at a higher price.
The latest figures on national maize stocks taken on March 31 this year shows the country has almost 14 million bags of maize in reserves across the value chain.
Farmers are currently holding 5.1 million bags, traders around 2.3 million, millers 2.4 million and the NCPB 4.06 million bags of maize.
“The maize balance sheet shows that the available stocks are enough to meet national needs, with a surplus of 2.27 million bags expected at the end of June 2015,” the CS said.
The supplies of other foods such as beans and potatoes were adequate as well.
Wheat is the only crop with a gap in supplies between now and the next harvest, but this will be addressed with imports to plug the gap, he added.
The price of food has been rising steadily since January this year, forcing consumers to dig deeper into their pockets.
For instance, the wholesale price of maize per 90kg bag stands at an all-time high of Sh3,400 in Kisumu. The national average is around Sh2,900, up from Sh2,370 in February this year.
Beans have not fared any better, with a 90kg bag selling at Sh6,660 up from Sh6,160. Just like maize, the price of beans is highest in Kisumu, at Sh7,600 per bag.
The prices of Irish potatoes have risen from Sh2,540 per 110kg bag in February to the current Sh2,780. Potato prices are highest in Mombasa, at Sh3,725.
The sharp increase has been blamed on the delayed and inadequate long rains that have sparked fears of inadequate harvests next season.
However, Agriculture Principal Secretary Ms Cecily Kariuki said the rains were improving, raising hopes that this will translate into adequate harvests, especially in maize growing areas.
Statistics from the Ministry of Devolution released in February, indicated that some 1.6 million Kenyans were food-insecure and were currently on food aid from the government.