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Markets: Local wheat prices to rise 40% on limited supplies, as imports fall 

The price of local Kenyan hard wheat is set to rise 40% on limited supplies, as that of imported soft wheat tumbles due to record harvests in Russia.

Kenyan retail wheat and flour are made up of a blend of 70 per cent soft wheat– largely from Russia and 30 per cent locally souced hard wheat.

“Consolidators are picking up the few last bags of wheat still being harvested in Timau and Mau Narok. Once the rainy season is underway in a month there will be no local wheat supplies. Farmers who manage to store their produce usually enjoy far better prices,” said wheat agronomist and farmer Joseph Wangai.

He anticipates the farmgate price of a 90kg wheat bag to increase by about 40 per cent to Sh4,500 by April 23-24 and by up to 62 per cent into May, reaching Sh5,200.

Russia’s bumper harvest

Thanks to excellent weather conditions for its winter wheat, Russia– Kenya’s usual key wheat supplier– is forecast to have its second-largest harvest in history.

In a month, the first shipment of this Russian wheat will have landed in Mombasa.

“There is no shortage of soft wheat swirling in the global market. Millers will be getting a sweet deal,” Wangai said.

Market watchers expect one kilogram of this wheat to cost between Sh66.25 and Sh39.75.

This means millers won’t be forced to scramble for hard wheat obtained from Canada and Australia which is at least 1.5 times more expensive and costs more in freight as was the case in 2022. 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and the breakdown of the Black Sea Grain Deal led to record high wheat prices with a tonne of unprocessed wheat costing Sh78,756. This was almost double the average price of Sh 40,610.

This was painfully expensive for Kenya– a net wheat importer that ships in close to two-thirds of its consumed wheat. In 2022 the country took in 1.7MT of wheat worth $576M.

According to AFA, wheat exports from Kenya decreased 98.6 per cent in 2022 from the previous year to just 1,970 MT as the average farm gate price of a 90 kg bag increased by Sh386 to Sh3,554.

No joy for consumers

Unfortunately for bread lovers, cheaper wheat prices will not lead to a drop in consumer goods prices as yet.

“Millers have to first exhaust their more expensive wheat stocks. Even after they do, Kenya’s wheat milling sector is largely monopolised so there’s rampant price manipulation,” Joseph pointed out.

There are also no regulations and policy controls on what imported wheat should be used for.

Millers prefer selling this wheat as animal feed as it fetches better prices. While a 90-kilogram bag of wheat meant for feed can be sold for Sh3,400, a similar one for human consumption will fetch just Sh2,200.

A lot of this wheat is also diverted into farmer’s fields for planting.

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