The Kenya Plant Health Inspection Services (KEPHIS) plans to send a team to India to inspect and certify that the Asian country’s wheat is pest-free before it can be imported. This follows a ban imposed by the regulator on wheat imports from India due to a fungal disease known as Karnal Bunt (KB).
The regulator was concerned that if the disease entered the country it would impact local production.
“We are in talks with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Cereal Millers Association to send KEPHIS inspectors to India to inspect wheat growing areas and certify that they are pest free,” said Theophilus Mutui, Managing Director of KEPHIS.
Mutui informed that they have yet to send any officers to the Asian country but are discussing how to remedy the situation as soon as possible.
“Although India is not the only country from which millers can source wheat, it can be a cheaper option for the product. However, until we are certain that the pest is not present, we cannot allow it to enter the country,” he said.
Millers had asked the government in April to carry out a risk assessment to help decide on lifting the ban and allowing wheat imports from India. Cereal Millers Association CEO Paloma Fernades lamented that the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian crisis had caused a supply disruption.
According to The Star, Russia and Ukraine supply 33% of the world‘s wheat, with Kenya receiving almost 66% of its supply from the two countries.
“Indian wheat is significantly cheaper than the rest of the world, selling at a discount of around $50-80 less than global wheat, almost $500 a ton,” said Fernandes. She mentioned that Tanzania and Uganda are currently buying wheat from India.
“Unfortunately, we cannot import from India due to the ban, but our Ugandan and Tanzanian neighbors will be able to import and will be more competitive in the market in terms of wheat,” she explained.
According to the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) May food security monitoring report, consumers in some African countries like Kenya, Egypt, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria and Cameroon are beginning to diversify their cereal diets as world wheat prices continue to rise.
According to the Global Trade Tracker, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal and South Africa will receive 147,200 metric tons of wheat from Argentina. This represents a 33% increase over last year.
“This was made even more necessary by India’s recent wheat export ban, which had become an alternative source of wheat supply. India’s ban was prompted by a severe heatwave that hit the country in mid-March 2022, leading to lower wheat production forecasts,” according to the food security monitoring report.
First published: June 18, 2022, 07:57 IST