The wholesale price of maize has hit a record Sh4,200 per 90 kilogramme bag, even as millers complain that farmers and traders are still demanding higher prices for their produce.
Millers say sellers have refused to release stocks despite increasing the price from Sh4,000 last week to Sh4,200 yesterday, which they consider low.
This is the highest price millers have ever paid for a 90-kilogramme bag in the past 10 years in a situation likely to add more pain to the consumers and drive up inflation.
“Even with the high price that we are offering, millers are unable to get stocks from farmers and traders and we have totally run out of maize,” says Cereal Millers Association vice-chairman Mohamed Islam.
Millers anticipate the situation is going to get worse in the coming days as the government is still dilly-dallying with importation of maize that was expected to ease the current shortage.
Firms require 50,000 bags of maize every day for them to operate optimally but currently, most are milling below their installed capacity.
The State was looking at possibly importing white maize from Mexico, but is yet to take the step, instead, saying farmers are hoarding maize.
“We had the plans of importing maize but we have delayed to monitor the situation given that there is enough maize in the country only that traders and farmers are still holding huge stocks basing on the recent food situation report that we have,” said Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett.
The stocks held by farmers, according to the report, stood at 10 million bags, traders, 2.7 million bags, millers 993,637 bags and NCPB has a total of 1.4 million bags as at the end of January.
The food balance sheet report, which gives the status of available stocks in the country, indicates that Kenya had 15 million bags of maize as at January 31.
The report notes that from the current food stocks, the country has a shortfall of 7.5 million bags, which has seen the price of the staple increase by 32 per cent on average compared to the same period last year.