Kenyan food import costs jump to Sh68bn

In the first four months of the year, Kenya’s food imports increased by one-third to 68.63 billion shillings over the previous year, reflecting the country’s dependence on foreign markets despite improved weather conditions.

Official statistics collected by the Central Bank of Kenya show that the food import bill increased by 30.10 percent between January and April, compared with 52.75 billion in the same period of 2017.

Kenya’s dependence on foreign markets to feed its citizens has increased by more than four-and-a-half times in a decade since food imports were valued at only 15.09 billion shillings in January-April 2008.

Rainfed agriculture

Kenya’s excessive reliance on rain-fed agriculture has led to increased use of imports in the event of drought.

For example, an anemic drought triggered subsidies and an exemption of import duties between mid-May and December to facilitate the purchase of food products such as maize, milk powder, and sugar.

Unscrupulous traders took advantage of the Treasury’s duty-free food window to transport basic stocks of corn purchased in countries such as Uganda and Mexico and sell them to the National Grains and Produce Board (NCPB) to the detriment of Kenyan farmers.

The maize import union, which saw traders paid nearly 2 billion shillings from the national grain reserve, left farmers in the North Rift region with their corn crops, their main source of income.

NCPB chief executive Newton Terer resigned on May 20 from the scandal as Rift Lake, Western, North and South store managers were suspended the next day pending the investigation by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC).

In addition to maize, other major food imports are unmilled wheat and wheat flour, rice and sugar, according to the 2018 Economic Survey.

Invoice of import

Food accounted for 11.64 percent of the country’s total import bill between January and April, up from 9.56 percent in the same period last year, according to statistics.

Total imports during the period amounted to 589.62 billion shillings, an increase of 6.86 percent over the previous year.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has made food security, largely through increased investments in irrigation, one of the key priority areas of his mandate, as well as universal health care, affordable housing and sanitation. manufacturing.

Machinery accounted for the largest share of Kenyan imports at 146.59 billion shillings, down 15.03 percent year-on-year.

Minerals rose 25.96 percent to 109.43 billion shillings, while imports of chemicals increased 9.93 percent to 92.09 billion shillings during the review period.

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