21 March 2018

Kenya's Food Imports Jump 58% in January

Kenya's food imports jumped 58.33 per cent in January compared to a year earlier, reflecting last year's deficit in production as a result of poor rainfall.

The country's food import bill shot to Sh20.9 billion from Sh13.2 billion in January 2017, fresh data by the Kenya national Bureau of Statistics shows.

"Imports of food and beverage recorded a share of 13.27 per cent of the total imports," the State statistician says in the monthly Leading Economic Indicators report.

Total imports in January stood at Sh157.50 billion compared to Sh150.74 billion the year before.

Poor weather prompted subsidies and waiver of import duties between mid-May and December to smoothen purchase of such food as maize, milk powder and sugar from abroad to meet demand and ease spiking prices followed a biting drought.

Food imports more than doubled to Sh244.72 billion, representing a growth of 113.33 per cent over 2016.

Uganda has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of food shortages in Kenya as she dethroned South Africa to become the largest exporter of goods to Nairobi on the continent last November.

Cargo valued at Sh6.95 billion were trucked in from Uganda in January, official data shows more than double the Sh2.18 billion imports a year earlier.

Kenyan traders raided Uganda for cheaper maize from last November following a bumper harvest of the cereal, helped by relaxation of rules on food exports in the neighbouring nation.

Kenya's import bill from Uganda, largely comprising cereals, shot up nearly two-fold to a record Sh7.59 billion last November compared to Sh2.93 billion a month earlier.Maize imports remained elevated through January, data from the Eastern African Grain Council (EAGC) showed earlier this month.

A total of 46,010 tonnes of maize were bought from Uganda in January, a 78.4 per cent jump compared with 25,791 tonnes in December.

"This increase was due to the average second rain season harvest coupled with the attractive prices offered in the Kenyan urban markets," the EAGC said in the report.

Industrial supplies, however, accounted for the largest share of Kenya's imports at Sh51.99 billion, a growth of 8.22 per cent year-on-year.

Fuel imports rose to Sh24.69 billion from Sh22.44 billion, while machinery bill fell to Sh26.19 billion from Sh31.31 billion, the KNBS data shows.

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