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Leaders want State to buy maize at Sh3,200

By Rawlings Otieno
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri (left), Policy Director in charge of crop insurance John Mwaniki and National Cereals and Produce Board Managing Director Albin Sang when they appeared before the National Assembly Agriculture and Livestock Committee yesterday. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

National Assembly Agriculture Committee has rejected the Sh2,300 per 90kg bag set by the Government to buy maize from farmers.

Yesterday, Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri came under sharp criticism for allowing his ministry to set the price at Sh2,300 instead of Sh3,200 paid last year for the same produce.

The MPs told the CS that the offer is too little yet the cost of production has not changed. They urged Kiunjuri to either review the buying price or they will mobilise farmers not to sell their maize to the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB).

The Agriculture Committee chaired by Mandera South MP Adan Hajji directed the minister to table the matrix and formulae used by the Strategic Food Reserve (SFR) that set the said prices.

The MPs, Silas Tiren (Moiben), Alfred Keter (Nandi Hills), Daniel Tuitoek (Mogotio) and Ferdinand Wanyonyi (Kwanza) said that buying maize at such a low price would hurt farmers.

In particular Mohammed and Tuitoek told Kiunjuri to explain why the Government was buying the maize at Sh2,300 and not Sh3,200 that it offered last year.

Wanyonyi said that as a maize farmer with more than 250,000 bags, he would not sell his produce to NCPB at such a low price.

“The Sh2,300 is not acceptable at all. The cost of production is still the same. We would rather keep our maize than sell it,” he said.

Keter said for the past five years farmers have been suffering and the Government had abandoned them.

Production cost

“The frustrations that farmers faced last year are the same. SFR doesn't consider the issues farmers have as serious. Unless we address these issues the cartels in the ministry and NCPB will not move at all,” he said.

The sentiments by the members came after Kiunjuri told the legislators that pricing of maize is set by SFR, which is an independent body.

According to him, this year, before setting the price of maize, the SFR put into consideration the prevailing local maize prices, the availability of maize locally, prices of maize locally and internationally (including the East African Community), as well as maize production cost.

“The current price of maize is Sh1,644 per 90kg bag and after considering this SFR settled on Sh2,300 which is a good price,” he added.

The move came just a day after SFR announced that the Government's is planning to buy 2.5 million bags of 90kg bag at Sh2,300 up from last year's Sh3,200, due a glut of the commodity.

Strategic Food Reserve Trust Fund (SFRTF) oversight board said the price was arrived at after an analysis and harmonisation of the cost of production which stands at Sh1,800.

The move has, however, been opposed, with North Rift governors saying the offer will discourage farmers from planting maize next season.

Speaking in Eldoret town, Governor Jackson Mandago (Uasin Gishu), Alex Tolgos (Elgeyo Marakwet) and Patrick Khaemba (Trans Nzoia) said the least price they had expected was Sh2,500 per 90kg bag.

The move came on the day that the Government announced that it has formed an inter-ministerial committee comprising of Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis), Kenya Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro), Public Health, Government Chemist and Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) to undertake fresh audit of suitability of maize in NCPB silos.

Its report

According to Kiunjuri, the task force will be required to give its report by Friday this week to enable them take a decision on whether to destroy the maize, hardly days after Kebs said that 63.3 per cent of the commodity is unfit for human consumption.

The fresh audit came even as it emerged that 2.1 million bags have been earmarked for destruction as they are not fit for human consumption.

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