Kenyans will soon dig deeper into their pockets to pay for maize flour after last week’s ban on the importation of the grain from Uganda and Tanzania on safety concerns.
The Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) acting Director-General Kello Harsama said tests on maize samples obtained from shipments from the two countries showed high levels of poisons beyond acceptable levels.
“Test results for maize imported from Uganda and Tanzania have revealed high levels of mycotoxins that are consistently beyond safety limits,” he said. These poisons are known to cause cancer.
Analysts now say the ban will cause a shortage even as it pits Kenya against its neighbours in what is likely to cause another trade war.
Mr Humphrey Wafula, an agribusiness researcher, says Kenyans face drastic increases in the price of maize unless the government finds alternative sources, considering Uganda and Tanzania are major suppliers.
“If you ban maize coming in from two major sources, then you should allow maize that passes safety checks to come in from other countries, otherwise you will have a problem containing the rise of maize prices,” Mr Wafula notes.
“Kenyans consume huge quantities of maize daily so someone has to fill in the void left by the ban,” he said.
Mr Samwel Nyandemo, an economist, says banning importation of products that are in high demand has historically proved counterproductive, instead leading to rise of smuggling and consequently, price spikes.
Maize, Mr Nyandemo observes, is a staple in most households in Kenya and as such increased demand and stretched supply will automatically raise maize prices.
Tanzanian authorities have taken issue with the ban arguing that the Kenyan experts should have notified them of the abnormally before going public over the matter.
“Since Tanzania and Kenya are members of the EAC, their differences have to be resolved through procedures governing regional body, so Tanzania’s image and the quality of its produce should not be tarnished,” Deputy Agriculture Minister Hussein Bashe is quoted by Tanzanian newspaper the Citizen.
“Our Kenyan colleagues should take world-renowned measures-that if they take a sample in one consignment and find a problem that is serious, they have a responsibility to write to us (None Compliance Note) indicating the load and the country/place of origin for further management and actions,” he adds.
Dozens of trucks ferrying maize into the country are stranded at the Namanga border, days after the country effected the ban.
Traders and transporters say they were incuring losses in millions of shillings with every day of delay.