Amid duty waivers and a severe drought, official data reveals that rice imports more than doubled in the first half of the year, surpassing the entire volume of 2022. Traders ordered 702,249 metric tonnes, marking a 118.31% increase from the previous year.
These higher imports were facilitated by the government’s duty-free policy, enabling traders to import milled rice and maize tax-free. The move aimed to address food scarcity caused by a poor crop season and global supply disruptions due to conflicts such as Russia’s war in Ukraine. The increased rice orders, Kenya’s third most consumed staple, led to a significant rise in trader expenditure, reaching Sh39.71 billion in the half-year period.
During this time, approximately two-thirds of the total expenditure, nearly Sh27 billion, was spent between April and June when 464,755.50 tonnes were ordered, mainly from Pakistan and India after Tanzania restricted grain exports. The average value of imported rice per tonne increased by 14.57% over the first half of 2022, reaching Sh56,549.03.
The Ministry of Agriculture’s duty-free window, allowing traders to import large quantities of rice and maize between February and August, contributed significantly to the increased stocks. These measures were aimed at ensuring sufficient food supplies until the next harvest in July to August 2023.
Additionally, the State Department for Crop Development announced that the duty waiver would apply to white maize and milled rice imported into the country by August 6, 2023, benefiting millers and traders. Looking ahead, Kenya obtained approval from the East African Community’s Council of Ministers to reduce rice import duty to 35% from 75% for the current Financial Year ending June 2024.