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Kenya says to import 67,500 T of maize by June

24 January 2012, 13:50

Nairobi - Kenya is expected to import 67,500 tonnes of maize in the six months to June to boost its stocks, its Agriculture ministry said, a move likely to put weakening pressure on the shilling.

The east Africa nation said it planned to import three quarters of a million 90-kg bags of maize from regional and international markets to bolster supplies despite bigger harvests following recent good rains.

The ministry said the national maize stocks as at December 31, 2011 stood at 18.7 million bags from 16.58 million the previous month.

"If anticipated short rains production is achieved, and imports sustained at current rates with no exports, the national stocks level as at June 30 ... is estimated to be a surplus of 7,354,275 bags," the ministry said in a brief seen by Reuters.

"The stocks are however expected to diminish by the end of August ... but will be replenished from the early harvests from the 2012 long rains from South Rift, and inflows from neighboring countries and importations," the ministry said.

The ministry said the surplus is expected to ease pressure on the prices of the main staple food, handing relief to east Africa's largest economy where rising food, fuel and electricity prices are putting pressure on consumers.

Kenya's high inflation rate slowed year on year in December to 18.93 percent for the first time in 13 months and is projected to cool further partly due to favourable farming weather.

Prolonged drought in early 2011 slashed the output of most food cereals in the east African nation, leading to shortages that triggered major hikes in consumer prices.

Kenya in June removed import duty on maize and wheat to spur inflow from neighbouring countries and plug production deficits caused by drought. The taxes will be reinstated by June this year.

John Muli, a trader at African Banking Corporation, said importation of maize would put pressure on the shilling, which plunged last year to a record low of 107 per dollar mainly due to a widening balance of trade deficit.

The ministry said that although maize prices were expected to drop on the improved supply, wheat prices would stay high.

Prolonged drought slashed production in Kenya's main wheat crop season. It realised 2.18 million 90kg bags of wheat from the long rain season against a target of 5.69 million bags.

Kenya is a net importer of wheat, with a consumption volume of about 900,000 tonnes per year. Total annual wheat production in Kenya stands at 350,000 tonnes a year, implying the country imports close to two-thirds of its wheat requirements.


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