Ships arrive with grain amid cost concerns

Published on 25/02/2009

By Patrick Beja

As ships started lining up at Mombasa port to discharge grain, key players held a meeting to discuss how to minimise delays in handling consignments.

The meeting on Monday took place as two ships — MV Equator and MV Pioneer Trader — were about to discharge wheat through the Grain Bulk Handlers Ltd terminal.

The stakeholders met as more than ten ships carrying 314,000 metric tonnes of maize and wheat are expected at the port between February 27 and March 29.

Sources at the meeting said importers were concerned that the retail prices of maize flour may not go down as expected, following a decision by Government to scrap import duty.

They said the situation required quick discharge to avoid high charges.

Participants were drawn from the Kenya Ports Authority, Grain Bulk Handlers Ltd (GBHL), National Cereals and Produce Board, millers, clearing and forwarding agents and the Kenya Transport Association.

The grain importers urged GBHL, which was represented by Terminal Manager Aziz Ramzan, to reduce time ships spend on the queue to cut on costs.

Removal of grain

Logistics Manager Kennedy Muema represented KPA, while Mr Sam Machio represented KTA.

GBHL Executive Chairman Mohamed Jaffer assured grain importers on Tuesday that discharge would be faster since the Government had removed duty on maize imports.

He said GBHL could discharge 10,000 tonnes of grain a day.

“Quick removal of grain is the biggest challenge. GBHL is ready to discharge all the grain in time,” Mr Jaffer said.

A millers’ representative, Mr Munir Thabit, said although the maize would be imported duty free, they were concerned over huge demurrage costs if discharge delays.

“Grain importers do not want a repeat of what happened last year when ships queued to discharge maize and wheat. It would be pointless for the Government to allow duty free maize when the same commodity attracts huge demurrage charges reflected in flour prices,” he said.

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