Kenya’s food import bill in the first quarter of the year rose 58.4 percent to hit Ksh80.2 billion ($569.4 million), nearly matching what was fetched from exporting food.
The latest data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows the imports rose from Ksh50.6 billion ($359.25 million) in a similar period last year as the country shipped in more volumes of commodities such as rice, wheat and processed food.
The rise came in the period food imports increased by 10.4 percent to Ksh87.5 billion ($621.23 million), leaving the gap between exports and imports at Ksh7.3 billion ($51.83 million)—one of the narrowest in the recent past.
Kenya’s spending on food imports in the first three months of 2021 was about 64 percent of the money received from food exports, with the difference between the two at Ksh28.6 billion ($203 million).
However, food imports have been growing at a faster pace than that food exports to cut the difference to Ksh7.3 billion in the three months ended March 2023.
The value of food imported was equivalent to about 92 percent of the money earned from food exports, raising fears Kenya could become a net food importer.
The KNBS data showed the value of imported unmilled wheat rose by 70.5 percent to Ksh26.9 billion ($190.98 million) while that of rice increased by 96.5 percent to Ksh12.7 billion ($90.17 million).
The value of processed food and beverage imports rose by 84.4 percent from Ksh20.6 billion ($146.25 million) to Ksh38 billion ($269.8 million), adding to the overall rise in food shipped in.
The decline in the value of raw maize imports, however, fell from Ksh3.53 billion ($25 million) to Ksh1.43 billion ($10.15 million), easing the pressure on the food import bill.
Import bill on maize was at Ksh10.9 billion ($77.39 million) in three months ended September last year.
Kenya has been struggling to ramp up food production and cut its appetite for imports but challenges such as erratic rains, reduced farm sizes and high production costs have been standing in the way.
Source: The East African