Kenyans Warned of Hike in Maize Flour Prices

  • An image of maize flour
    A file photo of maize flour on display at a supermarket in Nairobi.
  • Millers have warned of a possible increase in maize flour prices over what has been described as hoarding of the commodity by farmers and brokers resulting in artificial shortage. 

    Farmers have been accused of taking advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic to hoard maize with the anticipation that the government could step in and increase maize-buying price. 

    Cereals Miller's Association CEO, Paloma Fernandes, in an interview on Friday, July 31, explained that hoarding would eventually reflect on the buying price of maize flour.

    An image of Paloma
    Chief Executive Officer of Cereal Millers Association Paloma Fernandes speaking at a past event.

    "What happens in the market, if the market price is about maybe Ksh2,800, the government would come one day and say today we want Ksh3,400 for our farmers. Immediately, there is a price spike.

    "One of the things that we have noticed during the Covid situation was that some of the farmers and brokers were actually hoarding some of the produce thinking that the government will get involved directly and start procuring from them. So again, the speculation caused scarcity in the market and the price fluctuated," she noted.

    The Government gave Miller's the greenlight to import maize from Mexico and South Africa to fill the shortage and cushion consumers from the price hike.

    Millers also took issue with the government's decision to close down milling companies due to aflatoxin contamination instead of encouraging regulatory bodies to constantly monitor the whole cereal value chain to reduce incidences of contamination.

    Fernandes also called for the rules of fortification and aflatoxins to apply across board with commercial millers being the most affected.

    "It does not mean that a commercial miller who is just more noticeable is the one who will get tested and always get affected, and the rules of fortification and aflatoxin only apply to commercial millers.

    "It needs to apply across the board, whether its the posho millers or that small five-tonne miller. Everybody needs to follow the food safety regulations," explained Fernandes. 

    The CEO added that blacklisting of milling factories is seeing some of association's members suffer heavy losses and potential investors shy away from the Kenyan market.

    From left, Charles Wachira with some members of G-Star Youth Group display the porridge flour they ake using bananas.
    From left, Charles Wachira with some members of G-Star Youth Group display the porridge flour they ake using bananas.
    Kimuri Mwangi