(Bloomberg) -- Eight lobby groups asked the Kenyan government to suspend import duties and other charges on key grains to avert a potentially devastating food crisis after the prices of wheat climbed by more than half in the past year.

Corn has jumped 47% to 4,200 shillings ($36) for a 90-kilogram bag in the year through April after persistent drought and lower cross-border inflows from other East African Community nations. Wheat prices have risen by 58% to 6,000 shillings per 90-kilogram bag, according to a statement by groups including the Kenya Association of Manufacturers, Cereal Millers Association, Eastern Africa Grain Council and United Grain Millers Association. 

“The high and volatile international prices have resulted in unprecedented retail prices,” they said. “Players in the sector have turned to the expensive importation of wheat from USA, Argentina, Australia and Canada.” 

Annual corn production is estimated at 3.2 million tons against consumption of 3.8 million tons, with imports from East African neighbors such as Uganda making up the difference. Kenya grows about 100,000 tons of wheat, compared with annual demand of 2.4 million tons, and plugs 60% of the deficit with imports from Ukraine and Russia, according to the statement.

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