Tanzania has become the largest source market for Kenya on the continent after overtaking South Africa, partly on the back of increased orders of maize and rice by millers.

Official trade statistics show expenditure on goods trucked from Tanzania nearly doubled last year to Sh54.47 billion from Sh27.88 billion the year before.

The 95.38 percent, or Sh26.59 billion, bump in imports catapulted Tanzania to the top position in Africa after orders from South Africa fell 3.72 percent to Sh44.08 billion, according to data collated by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS).

“Imports from Tanzania nearly doubled from Sh27.9 billion in 2020 to Sh54.5 billion in 2021 partly attributable to increase in imports of maize and rice from this country,” KNBS analysts wrote in the Economic Survey 2022.

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta and his counterpart Samia Suluhu in May last year pledged to end persistent strained trade relations between the two largest economies in the six-nation East African Community bloc which have, for years, hindered the smooth flow of goods and services.

For example, Trade minister Betty Maina and her Tanzanian counterpart Prof Kitila Mkumbo led delegations to a four-day meeting in Arusha — the headquarters of the EAC secretariat — weeks after the two presidents met in Nairobi to address unresolved trade disputes.

The KNBS data shows that Kenya’s exports to Tanzania also jumped 43.12 percent to Sh45.56 billion, titling the trade balance in favour of Dar es Salaam to the tune of Sh8.91 billion.

Kenyan traders turned to Tanzania as a source market for unmilled maize in a year domestic production fell 12.8 percent to 36.7 million bags in 2021 from 42.1 million bags in the prior year.

The KNBS data shows the cost of importing a tonne of maize into the country increased to an average of Sh28,260 last year from Sh27,279.6 the year before — translating to an average of Sh2,543 per 90-kilogramme bag.

Maize imports jumped 77.9 percent last year to 486,525.0 tonnes, marking the highest volumes since 529,558.3 tonnes in 2018 when the country was emerging from a biting drought a year earlier that had prompted millers and traders to make orders from as far as Mexico.

The maize imports, where Tanzania was one of the main markets, cost Sh13.75 billion from Sh7.46 billion, the biggest expenditure since Sh40.265.0 billion in 2017, according to the KNBS.

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