Dr Situmbeko Musokotwane, Zambia’s Minister of Finance, has stated that the country will not export maize to Kenya this season due to a cereal shortage.
In an interview with The African Scoop on the sidelines of the Spring Meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in Washington, DC, Dr Musokotwane stated that Zambia will import maize to make up for the deficiencies caused by a poor harvest last year.
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi stated that Kenya is contracting Zambian farmers to grow maize exclusively for the Kenyan market in an effort to reduce the price of the staple, with the first shipment anticipated in August.
“I believe we are all aware that there has been a maize shortage, particularly in border regions near Tanzania, Congo, and Malawi. Dr. Musokotwane explained that the government has decided to allow importation to supplement what we already have in order to alleviate shortages.
“Therefore, (Zambia’s) Treasury has removed taxes and other fees payable on maize imports so that we can contribute to moderating the price of this commodity.” The tariffs have been eliminated, and the private sector is free to import from South Africa or anywhere else to alleviate the shortages.”
According to the report Integrated Food Security Phase Classification July 2022-March 2023, Zambia’s maize production for 2022/2023 consumption decreased by 25 percent, from 3,620,244 metric tonnes to 2,706,243 metric tonnes, necessitating the importation of the grain.
Dr. Musokotwane was noncommittal about CS Linturi’s plan to plant maize in Zambia for the Kenyan market, stating that he had yet to receive a complete briefing from his Agriculture colleague Mtolo Phiri.
Dr. Musokotwane stated, “The Minister of Agriculture in Zambia can handle this information.”
Land for maize cultivation
Zambia is unable to satisfy Kenya’s immediate grain needs, but has proposed between 20,000 and 40,000 hectares for the cultivation of the crop for the Kenyan market.
In March, Mr. Linturi and Mr. Phiri signed a memorandum permitting the large-scale cultivation of maize in Zambia for export to Nairobi.
“Within the next month, Kenya will sign a contract with local farmers in Zambia to have them grow maize for export to the Kenyan market,” said Mr. Linturi.
The announcement that Zambian maize would arrive in August, however, did not sit well with the Kenya Farmers Association, who argued that the scheduling was incorrect.
“If he says he will import maize in August, it will be harvest time in most of Western and Rift Valley, as well as Uganda and Tanzania,” said Kipkorir Menjo, the director of the association.
“The timing is incorrect”
“I do not believe that was a well-considered strategy. The timing is inappropriate, as it will impact maize prices and production in the North Rift.”
Instead of pursuing imports every time there is a perceived or actual shortage, the government should provide farm inputs during planting season to enable farmers to produce sufficient maize for the country.
A two-kilo packet of maize flour now costs more than Ksh200 ($1.50), up from Ksh186 ($1.40) last month, in accordance with the rising cost of the cereal, which has caused a 90-kilo bag to reach Ksh6,100 ($45.50) from Ksh5,300 ($39.50).
Last week, Kenya’s Agriculture Principal Secretary Harsama Kello, who accompanied Linturi to Zambia, stated that Kenya planned to import one million tonnes of maize to meet its national deficit, as traditional maize exporters from Uganda and Tanzania cited reduced production last season.
“South Africa is the only country in Africa with maize stocks, and many nations are competing for the commodity.” Harsama stated that due to the availability of maize on the market, there will likely be a problem with timely delivery of maize.