Kampala — Maize prices have remained stable in Uganda despite a shortage and looming famine being experienced in Kenya. A survey carried out in most maize millers in Kampala showed that they still have sufficient maize stocks following a good harvest season last year.
In January Kenya started experiencing shortages due to the long dry spell which hit some of the maize growing parts of the country especially in north eastern parts of Kenya. Kenya's Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture and Livestock, Felix Koskei admitted there is a crisis. He however said the Kenyan government is looking for alternative means.
"We are facing huge challenges as a country, but I want to assure the nation that we have enough food that can feed the people until May. Although we have a shortage of between seven million and 10 million bags, we are monitoring the situation to ensure that we respond as early as possible," The Minister was quoted by one of the dailies in Nairobi.
Kisenyi maize dealer, Kizito Philipe Mukasa said, "Yes there is problem in Kenya, but our people should not worry, because Uganda still has enough. Most stores in Kampala, Jinja, Gulu and Masindi are well stocked."
He said prices may be stable until May but he warned that if the crisis in Kenya does not improve, it will inevitably lead to a decline in supply and increase in the price of maize flour in.
Currently the price of a kilogram of unprocessed grade one maize in Kampala is between Ush550 and Ush 600. A 50 kilogramme sack of maize flour costs Ush60,000 (about US $24) at the wholesale market.
Kenya has frequently been susceptible to shortages due to the severe climatic conditions which affect the production of maize across many parts of the country.
It is also the biggest user of fertilisers in the East African Community.
According to the study carried out by Tegemeo Institute, an agriculture think-tank attached to Egerton University, maize production fell by 33.4% due to poor rainfall and delays in planting.
But although some Kampala maize dealers are projecting prices not to hike, other dealers are worried. Peter Walumbe a manager at the Baida Maize Company in told the East African Business Week that the Kenyan situation poses a threat when purchasing from Eastern Uganda.
"When farmers in Eastern Uganda realize that Kenya has run short of maize, our supplies also changes. The price drastically goes up, because they know there is high demand for their produce this does affect supply side and profitability," he said.
In Uganda, if the prices go up, it has a negative impact on the livestock sector , because many cattle keepers depend on maize as a supplementary feed. This also applies to the poultry sector.
According to Mzee Amos Mutabazi, a dairy farmer in Wakiso, Central Uganda, "Livestock feeds processing companies also hike their prices to catch up with the increasing price for maize on the local market."