Shortage fears loom as supply of cheap maize flour dwindles

Monday October 30 2017

Increased orders of maize four were linked to last week’s repeat presidential election. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Increased orders of maize four were linked to last week’s repeat presidential election. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

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Reduced supply of subsidised maize flour has hit supermarkets days to the end of the subsidy scheme, raising fears of shortages.

Some supermarkets did not have flour on Friday while others had only stocked one brand on reduced supplies of the Sh90 a packet flour.

This has raised the likelihood of shortages and rationing of the subsidised staple food amid delays in evacuating maize at Mombasa port.

Three ships carrying the last batch of 1.1 million bags of subsidised maize docked at Mombasa port last week and flour is expected to land in the shops in the second week of November.

“We have experienced supply challenges in the last couple of days. However, we had secured enough stocks before and they are the ones that we have been selling,” said Naivas Supermarket chief operating officer Willy Kimani.

A survey by the Business Daily on Monday showed Tuskys outlets in Nairobi had stocked the Soko brand only, with Naivas having a few packets of the Mama brand.

“We had no challenges till today. But we had abnormal offtake by customers last week,” Tuskys chief executive officer Daniel Githua said on Monday.

Increased orders were linked to last week’s repeat presidential election as consumers rushed to stock up amid jitters over the outcome of the poll.

The Treasury ended the subsidy, which started on May 16, mid this month and expected the steady flow of the cheap flour to end today. The cost of the staple is expected to rise to Sh120 a packet.

Traders say some millers could be hoarding the cheaper flour, hoping to cash in on the higher market price when the subsidy comes to a close.
The Ministry of Agriculture said the imports are the last consignment under the subsidy programme.

The maize cargo is equivalent to Kenya’s consumption for 11 days, suggesting it could last up to November 16 if the flour lands on shelves on November 6 in line with millers’ estimates.

On May 16, Kenya announced a Sh6 billion subsidy to help lower the cost of flour, which had shot up due to a regional drought and poor planning.

The staple has a big effect on the cost of living measure and the food index — which has a 36.04 per cent weight on the goods used to calculate inflation.

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