Today, the Agriculture and Food Authority wrote a letter to the Commissioner of Customs, Pamela Ahago. There it stated that it “stopped any further imports of the maize into Kenya with immediate effect”. It also said the reason why: “conducting surveillance on the safety of food imports to Kenya”. The last is: “Test results for maize imported from Uganda and Tanzania have revealed higher levels of mycotoxins that are consistently beyond safety limits”.
When you read that it makes sense. You might wonder, what is mycotoxins? Well, it is: “Mycotoxins are toxic compounds that are naturally produced by certain types of moulds (fungi). Moulds that can produce mycotoxins grow on numerous foodstuffs such as cereals, dried fruits, nuts and spices” (…) “The effects of some food-borne mycotoxins are acute with symptoms of severe illness appearing quickly after consumption of food products contaminated with mycotoxins. Other mycotoxins occurring in food have been linked to long-term effects on health, including the induction of cancers and immune deficiency” (World Health Organization (WHO) – ‘Mycotoxins’ 09.05.2016).
We can be sure that the Ugandan and Tanzanian authorities will react to this. As they will not accept this and will be scorn. The Kenyan Authority is right in doing this. Especially with the concern of food safety and food for human consumption should be key priority. Therefore, to cease or suspend imports of Maize makes sense.
What is also striking is the amount of maize that is exported to the Kenya market from the neighbours, which a report in 2020 said: “Kenya imported 44,740 metric tonnes of white maize from the region in the second quarter of 2020, accounting for more than three quarters of the total grain sold across borders in the period in East Africa. The latest Food Security and Nutrition Working Group (FSNWG) East Africa Cross Border Trade report shows that 58 and 39 per cent of the imports came from Uganda and Tanzania, respectively” (Kevin Rotich – ‘Tanzania, Uganda supply majority of Kenya’s maize imports’ 03.08.2020).
The main importers of maize to Kenya comes from these two. That means the main imports has stopped and the ones who exports it to the Republic. This also means the Kenyans are losing their main sources of White Maize. Maize is staple in the ugali and therefore a vital commodity.
The UNGA is a important aspect and has been subsidized by the government in the past too. We cannot know if the Maize cartels will earn from this. Just like the previous stockpiling exercises in 2017 and 2018. UNGA have been questioned and how the state have treated it.
In June in 2017 CS Willy Bett said this: “Since we started the subsidised programme, we have witnessed more Kenyans preferring unga, thus the high demand for maize flour,” (Ngotho, Agatha – ‘Kenyans eating more ugali to blame for unga shortage – CS’ (20.06.2017) link: http://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2017/06/20/kenyans-eating-more-ugali-to-blame-for-unga-shortage-cs_c1582605?platform=hootsuite).
It might come something similar happening now. As the state is directly losing its key trading partners who exports it to them. It is not like the Kenyans will stop eating UNGA. That is not happening. So, the need for maize flour will persist and we have to wonder where they will import it from now. Peace.