Kenyan traders flock Teso region for grains

Turn men load sacks of maize on a truck destined for Kenya in Soroti District on November 18, 2022. PHOTO/GEORGE MURON

What you need to know:

  • The traders, who have been doing business at border points, are now hunting for grains in villages in Teso Sub-region.

A food crisis in Kenya has triggered a mad dash for grains in Teso Sub-region by Kenyan traders, which has escalated the price of the commodities in the sub-region.
Some Kenyan traders now buy grains directly from Uganda villages, while others use brokers. 
Mr Ali Bwire, a Kenyan grains dealer, told this publication in an interview last week that grains that pass through Busia border are taken to Turkana and Masai land where food shortage has caused a humanitarian crisis.

“Yes, there was a ban on Ugandan grain, but the current situation back at home has seen the prices of posho (Unga) rise, that ban is no longer applicable, we need maize for humans and poultry consumption,” he said.
Mr Julius Eliru, a produce dealer in Soroti District, said the mad dash for grains and cereals has seen prices of maize, sorghum, millet, green grams, cow peas and simsim skyrocket.
“Kenyans are in urgent need of bulk supplies, but the grains are limited,” he said.

Mr Eliru said maize is being bought from the village suppliers at Shs1,700 per kilogramme up from the initial Shs500, sorghum has shot up from Shs400 to Shs1,400, green grams from Shs250 to Shs1,800, cowpeas from Shs1,500 to Shs1,700, and groundnuts from Shs5,000 to Shs7,000, depending on the variety.
Mr Emmanuel Ojanga, a worker at Okapel 2 millers in Soroti, said Kenyan traders have deployed brokers at the industrial area to buy all grains on sale.
“Kenyans have brokers that buy grains and when they have realised their target, they escort the produce up to the border where it is finally transported to the final destination,” Mr Ojanga said.
Mr Said Salim, a Kenyan broker in Soroti, said their role is restricted to the identification of produce.
“We do not hold the cash, the Kenyans or the traders from Busia and Malaba always come to make their payments directly with the dealers,” Mr Salim said.

Mr Joel Okello, another broker, anticipates the food prices in the sub-region to rise further due to the current poor harvest.
“I am sure there will be a challenge with food supply to meet the market demand in the subsequent months,” Mr Okello said.
A produce dealer from Busia, who spoke on condition of anonymity, accused the government of laxity in enforcing rules concerning  foreign traders.
He said the foreign traders have deprived them of their rights and business opportunities by skipping trade channels.

“You cannot cross from Uganda to Kenya without showing your national ID and a passport, but in Uganda, everybody including foreigners is free to do whichever kind of business they want,” he said.
He added that the Busia and Malaba markets are supposed to work as centres for exchanging goods between citizens and their neighbouring countries, but this has lost meaning as Kenyans go beyond the border to buy goods.
In March 2021, Kenya banned Ugandan maize over allegations that they are intoxicated with aflatoxins.  
The ban was later lifted in May of the same year.