NAIROBI, Oct. 2 (Xinhua) -- Fast increase of food and oil imports flowing into Kenya led to widening of trade deficit in the second quarter of the year, compared with the same period in 2016, government statistics showed Monday.
The deficit was mainly pushed up by increased bill on imports of food items like maize and petroleum products, a new economic report from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) showed Monday.
"In the second quarter of 2017, imports valued on free on board increased by 15.5 percent to 4 billion U.S. dollars from 3.5 billion dollars in the second quarter of 2016, mainly on account of increased bill on imports of food and petroleum products," said the report for the April-June period.
Total exports increased marginally to 1.5 billion dollars in this quarter, up from 1.4 billion dollars in the same period of 2016.
"This resulted into widening of the external trade deficit in the review period. The balance of trade continued to worsen for the second consecutive quarter of 2017," said KNBS.
During the period, Kenya suffered an acute food shortage, particularly of maize and sugar, forcing up prices.
The shortage saw the government allow duty-free importation of maize and sugar, thus, pushing up the import bill.
Maize and sugar were imported into the east African nation, with the former coming from as far as Mexico and the later mainly from the Commond Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) region.
With the imported maize and government was able to subsidize prices to 0.9 dollars for a 2kg packet of maize flour, down from 1.5 dollars.
"Imports from the EAC (East African Community) nearly doubled from 71 million dollars in the second quarter of 2016 to 131 million dollars in the quarter under review, while imports from COMESA increased to 260 million dollars in the same period," said the government agency.
EAC groups Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. COMESA has 19 member states.
However, total exports to the EAC recorded a 14.4 percent decrease in the second quarter of 2017, to 25 million dollars, from 30 million dollars in the second quarter of 2016.
A similar trend was observed in total exports to COMESA, which fell from 42 million dollars in the second quarter of 2016 to 39 million dollars in the second quarter of 2017.