The taxpayer is losing millions of shillings to unscrupulous traders importing maize cheaply from Uganda and earning almost double by selling the commodity to National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB).
Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries cabinet secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri last Friday said a cartel comprising traders and millers are importing a 90kg bag maize from Uganda at about Sh1, 900 and selling the same to NCPB for Sh3, 200.
The traders, he said, have locked out genuine farmers from benefiting from the government’s attractive prices offered through NCPB.
“We have information that traders and some millers are importing maize cheaply from Uganda and selling it to the NCPB at Sh3, 200. We have launched investigations and soon we will unearth the scandal,” said Kiunjuri.
The rogue traders are using all methods to benefit from government prices to the extent of declining to disclose their farms, which is a requirement of ascertaining origin of maize.
As at mid last week, Government had bought 3.4 million of maize worth Sh10.98 billion the highest stock for the last five years.
Last week, East African Grain Council reported that cross-border maize trade between Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda had increased with Kenya emerging as the market where most of the maize being exported to.
“There are inflows of surplus stocks of maize from neighbouring countries due to opening up of the regional markets and Kenya government offering attractive prices to farmers. We are not ruling out possibility that maize from regional countries has found its way into the country,” he said.
The cross-border trade is growing even after Kenya sealed a deal to buy 6.6 million bags of maize from Uganda at Sh2,050 each to plug a deficit that has triggered a rise in flour prices.
The multimillion-shilling deal that was brokered by the Trade ministry will see local millers pay Grain Council of Uganda for delivery of cargo at the NCPB depots.
Local millers will have access to 600,000 tonnes of maize at $225 (Sh22,950) per tonne to meet a shortfall of more than five million bags following poor weather last year.
It is expected the imports will curb rising maize flour prices, which have increased to Sh110 for a two-kilogramme packet compared to Sh90 in December after the government ended the Sh6 billion subsidy.
Early this month Kiunjuri had directed NCPB to create space by relocating maize from stores in the North Rift to other storage facilities.
“We have continued to face challenges which are currently under investigation. For example, last week we had 150 lorries outside Nakuru stores, 124 in Eldoret, 150 in Moi’s Bridge and 35 in Bungoma,” he said.