The Kenyan government has allowed traders and millers to import a total of 1.5 million metric tonnes of duty-free rice and maize.
In a public notice by the state Department for Crop Development Principal Secretary Kello Harsama, duty-free 900,000 tonnes of maize and 600,000 tonnes of rice will be allowed into the country in February 2023.
Harsama says the move is aimed at readying for a potential food shortage in 2023.
“An Import Duty Waiver will be granted for millers and traders to import a total of 900,000 metric tons of white maize grain and 600,000 metric tons of milled rice from February 2023 to August 2023 to enable the Country have adequate stocks to last until the next harvest from July- August 2023,” said Harsama.
However, the ministry gave a threshold that must be met by the imported foods so as to be allowed into the country. He said the foods should be free from foreign materials such as odours and disease-causing micro-organisms.
“Shall be free from abnormal flavours, musty, sour or other undesirable odour, obnoxious smell and discoloration and also shall be free from micro-organisms and substances originating from micro-organisms, fungi or other poisonous substances in amounts that may constitute a hazard to human health,” he said.
The government’s move comes amid spirited opposition from politicians ailing from grain-growing countries, who have maintained that the importation will create undue competition for locally produced food.
They aired their frustrations after Trade, Investment and Industry Cabinet Secretary nominee Moses Kuria communicated his intention to import Genetically Modified organisms (GMO) maize.
Led by Nandi senator Samson Cherargei, the leaders said it was important for the government to wait until February when the farmers will be harvesting.
“For farmers in the North Rift and most parts of Kenya where we plant maize, this is the harvest season and we thought it wise that the Ministry of Trade should hold on importation of maize until we harvest ours and the NCPB (National Cereals and Produce Board) opens the stores for farmers to deliver their produce,” said Cherargei.
However, the High Court suspended the importation of maize over safety reasons, with the suspension orders extended on December 15.
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