SGR cargo trains to ferry cheap maize

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By GERALD ANDAE
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Cargo trains will start ferrying goods from Mombasa to Nairobi earlier than planned to ensure subsidised maize reaches the market on time amid a shortage of flour.

The standard gauge railway (SGR) cargo trains on the new railway were supposed to start trips in January next year but the current development will see them commence operations much earlier to save millions of Kenyans who have been grappling with the shortage of subsidised flour that is going for Sh90 for a two-kilogramme packet.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett said he had discussions with his Transport counterpart James Macharia and agreed on the matter.

“We want to use the SGR to ensure the maize is delivered on time to ease the current shortage of flour,” said Mr Bett.

“Because of the high uptake of the grain by millers, using the road alone as the only means of transport posed a challenge,” he added.

Maize from the inland container depot will be ferried to other parts of the country that are connected to the Rift Valley Railways (RVR) network.

The government is transporting the consignments from Mombasa to National Cereals and Produce Board depots across the country, cutting transport costs for millers.

Mr Bett noted that transporting maize from Mombasa to Nairobi was a major challenge in the distribution of the grain, a situation that has seen shortages persist in many parts of the country.

He spoke on Monday when he received 12,000 bags of maize from Mombasa that had been transported by RVR.

Mr Bett said the government was using a three-prong approach in transportation of maize to hasten its distribution to millers in a bid to end the current shortage of flour.

“We want to use the SGR, the RVR and road transport to ensure the maize gets to all parts of the country without delay,” he said.

According to the Agriculture ministry, 1.2 million bags of maize have so far been sold to millers under the subsidised programme, with 3.2 million bags expected before the end of next month.

At the same time, two ships carrying subsidised maize are set to dock at the port of Mombasa on Thursday and Saturday.

MV Medi Aero is expected to arrive on Thursday with 30,000 tonnes of maize, while MV Guardianship will bring 41,000 tonnes  on Saturday.

The maize has been imported by global merchant company Louis Dreyfus.

Reports showed that it would take three days to discharge the maize if the weather is “good”. 

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