Uganda comes to the rescue as East Africa faces maize shortage
In the past three months, Uganda has exported more than 28,000 tonnes of maize worth $14 million to the region, as countries such as Burundi struggle with the highest maize prices recorded in recent times.
This year, Uganda has sold 13,312 tonnes of maize to its neighbours with the bulk going to Tanzania (7,240 tonnes), followed by Rwanda (3,566 tonnes), then Kenya (2,506 tonnes) as food insecurity reaches alarming levels across various parts of the region.
Kenya, which had banned the importation of maize, plans to bring in the grain from Mexico.
Last week, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett admitted that the government was considering importing maize from Mexico as early as this week. A week ago, he had said the country had enough maize to feed the population for the next five months, if the current drought persisted.
“We have established that Mexico has sufficient white maize to meet our needs. We have discussed the matter with them. We shall finalise the plans and decide the amount to import and timeline for the shipment,” said Mr Bett, adding that he expects the Treasury to give tax breaks for the imports. Maize from outside the region is usually subjected to import duty.
Tanzania, which is Kenya’s traditional source market for its imports, banned maize exports in September last year. But, it is also now dealing with shortages even as Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa denied that such a situation existed.
“We have enough food stocks despite the rains failing in parts of the country. I don’t think the public should panic because we have enough food in our reserves to last till June,” said Mr Majaliwa.
Recently, Tanzania’s Agriculture, Food Security and Fisheries Minister, Charles Tizeba, said the country’s food stocks were sufficient as there was surplus output in the past season.
Late last year, Tanzania said it had an excess of three million tonnes of cereals and it exported almost half of that to neighbouring countries, while the remainder was stored in its strategic reserves.
“The National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) has over 62 per cent of the target cereals for this year and we already have over 90,000 tonnes as reserve, which we are ready to use to help stabilise market prices,” said Dr Tizeba.
However, data from the Regional Agricultural Trade Intelligence Network (Ratin) shows that since the start of December, Tanzania has become the biggest importer of maize from Uganda, through the Mutukula border post, taking in more than 8,000 tonnes of maize in January; Rwanda followed with 4,428 tonnes imported from Uganda through its Gatuna border.