By Egessa Hajusu
The regional produce market in Busia District is once again a beehive of activity two months after grain from Uganda was barred from entering neighbouring Kenya.
In the last two weeks, some Kenyans have started buying maize amounting to about 400 tonnes daily, giving relief to hundreds of traders who were stuck with thousands of maize tonnes piled up in their stores.
In September 2023, Kenya President William Ruto slapped a ban on the issuance of permits to millers and wheat importers in Kenya to protect local farmers.
The temporary ban left Ugandan maize traders counting losses since Kenya is the main destination for Uganda maize.
The surprise development came just six months after Uganda had signed a memorandum to export 600,0000 tonnes of maize to Kenya annually.
From early to mid-November, about 100 tonnes of maize have been entering Kenya informally through the porous border to nearby places like Kisumu.
Following Kenya’s move the volume of maize entering Kenya informally has dropped to about 80 tonnes daily, according to Henry Bwire, a data analyst With Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWSNET) which tracks the produce business at the border.
Ali Kimani a maize buyer from Kenya, said those coming to buy are mainly from regions which have started experiencing scarcity and are worried about entering the festive season and the close of the year without sufficient stock.
“There is high demand from especially schools which are set to open early next year,” he said adding that nothing is going to reverse the situation.
Kimani added that Kenyans prefer organic maize from Ugandan because of its taste and raw form in which it is sold, enabling them to process both maize flour and chicken feeds.
Consequently, some traders have emptied their stores and started bringing old stock from places like Busoga, Soroti, Amolata Serere, Kapchorwa and Mubende among others, which failed to garner demand.
Several traders are hoping that the situation returns to normal, noting that it will get them back into business since the new maize season has set in.
The traders however decried the losses incurred due to Kenya’s move, noting that they are selling at sh800-sh1000 kilogramme yet they stocked at sh1300. The two weeks of uninterrupted activity have brought life to the market, helping other small businesses there thrive too.