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Maize flour yet to hit the Sh115 retail price

When Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich and his Agriculture counterpart Willy Bett held a joint press conference last week, hopes of cheaper maize flour were high.

The meeting, which also roped in the Cereal Millers Association chairman Nick Hutchinson, even projected that the price of a 2kg packet of unga would retail at Sh115 this week.

The Sh38 drop from then Sh153 was to be driven by a release of one million bags of maize from the National Cereals and Produce Board’s strategic grain reserves as a temporary measure as Kenya awaits importation of duty free maize from Mexico and Ethiopia.

The lowest drop was Sh5 on the 2kg packet that has been retailing at Sh148 after millers took a portion of the maize from the government’s offer.

DUTY FREE MAIZE

The Nation has established that Kenyans will have to wait longer for the importation of the duty free maize despite Mr Rotich’s announcement as hunger bites.

The Kenya Revenue Authority said no grant for duty free importation of maize had been given by Thursday evening. The maize was expected in under a month.

The authority’s commissioner for customs and border control Julius Musyoki said the taxman had neither received nor granted permission for importers to bring in yellow or white maize.

“We have, however, received the approval letter from the Treasury, guiding the implementation of the waiver. The implementation is in progress,” he said.

Mr Rotich could not be reached for clarification over the matter as phone calls and SMS inquiries to him were not responded to.

DROP IN PRICES

Last week during the reading of the Budget statement in the National Assembly, Mr Rotich said the price was expected to ease gradually after the zero-rating of the grain among other measures. “The zero-rating of VAT on transport, electricity and packaging materials is now effective and has to reflect in the price of flour,” he said.

The minister said that the drop in the retail prices should not take more than a week as the millers were expected to start receiving the grains from April 5.

Mr Bett said the price of maize flour was dropping at a slower pace because millers said they were still exhausting earlier stock acquired at a higher price. “Prices are dropping already and they should be at Sh120 now for the 2kg packet,” Mr Bett said.

A spot check around city super markets, however, revealed that the Jogoo brand which is expected to be retailing at the Sh120 was unavailable in many stores with only Pembe, Taifa and Soko brands retailing at Sh128 per packet.

Nairobi based economic analyst Robert Shaw said the lowering of prices will continue to meet several other headwinds since the removal of duty may not be the ultimate solution.

Consumer Federation of Kenya secretary-general Stephen Mutoro said the government’s promise was not well thought out setting it up for failure.

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