Millers have shunned the one million bags of top grade maize worth Sh2.5 billion offered to them last month from the State-owned Strategic Grain Reserves to curb the rally in flour prices.
Data provided to Parliament indicate the millers have accessed 102,903 bags or 10 per cent of the allocated quota.
Maize flour prices crossed Sh100 in April with millers attributing the rise to increased cost of the raw material because of grain shortage.
The price of a two-kilogramme packet of maize flour has increased by more than Sh15 since August due to the shortage, prompting the State to release cereals from the strategic reserve in attempt to offer relief to households grappling with expensive staple food.
The maize was released on June 29 at Sh2,500 per bag, which is a discount on the prevailing price of Sh2,800.
Cereal Millers Association chairman Nick Hutchinson said transport cost from National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) silos to their factories discouraged millers from buying maize from the Strategic Grain Reserves.
“The truth is we are getting little returns from the government stocks since considering transportation costs, the maize is arriving in Nairobi at Sh2,763 per 90-kilogramme bag,” said Mr Hutchinson, who is also Unga Group chief executive.
Data from the reserve show the millers have paid for 266,639 bags of maize from NCPB and transferred 102,903 to their plants.
Maize prices have a big effect on inflation in Kenya where it is the staple food and accounts for a significant share of poor households’ budget.
Inflation increased to 5.80 per cent last month from five per in May, rising by the biggest margin since May 2014.
Shortage of maize has raised the cost of a 90-kg bag to Sh2,800, up from Sh2,200 in February.
Millers argue that the price of flour would be determined by market forces, ruling out the possibility of lowering costs any time soon.
Kenyans are likely to get a reprieve in September when harvesting of this season’s crop is expected to start. Maize prices are expected to dip on increased supply.
The NCPB holds 2.2 million bags of maize in the Strategic Food Reserve and release of the one million bags will deplete the emergency stocks.