KEPHIS to conduct safety evaluations on Indian wheat

KENYA – The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS) is mulling on deploying a team to India to inspect and certify that wheat from the Asian country is free from pests before any importation is allowed.

This follows a ban that the regulator instituted on the importation of wheat from India due to a fungal disease known as Karnal Bunt (KB).

The regulatory body was concerned that the disease could affect local production if it gets into the country. 

“We are in discussion with the Ministry of Agriculture and Cereal Millers Association on the possibility of KEPHIS inspectors going to India to inspect areas wheat is grown to certify that it is pest free,” said Theophilus Mutui, Managing Director, KEPHIS.

Speaking to The Star on phone, Mutui said they are yet to send their officers to the Asian country but they are in discussion on how to address the matter soonest time possible.

India is not the only country where millers can source wheat from, but it could provide a cheaper option for the commodity. But unless we are sure that the pest is not there, we cannot allow it to get into the country,” he said. 

Millers had in April asked the Government to do a risk analysis to help in decision-making on lifting the ban and allowing the importation of wheat from India.

Paloma Fernades, CEO of Cereal Millers Association, lamented that the ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis had propelled a supply glitch.

Russia and Ukraine supply 33 percent of the world’s wheat, with Kenya getting nearly 66 percent of its supplier from the two countries, says The Star.

“Indian wheat is significantly cheaper than the rest of the world selling at a discount of about USD 50-80 cheaper than world wheat which is at almost over 500 dollars per ton,” said Fernades.  

She noted that both Tanzania and Uganda were currently purchasing wheat from India.

“Unfortunately, due to the ban, we are unable to import from India yet our neighbours in Uganda and Tanzania will be able to import and there they will be more competitive than us in the market in terms of wheat,” she said.

According to the May- Food Security Monitoring report released by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), consumers in some African countries including Kenya, Egypt, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria and Cameroon are beginning to diversify their grain diets as global wheat prices continue to surge.

The Global Trade Tracker reports that Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal and South Africa are set to receive 147,200 metric tons of wheat from Argentina. This is a 33 percent increase from last year.

“This has been further necessitated by the recent wheat export ban by India, which had emerged as an alternative source for wheat supplies.

“The India ban has been occasioned by a severe heatwave that hit the country mid-March 2022 leading to a decrease in wheat production forecasts,” the food security monitoring report stated.

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