A move by the government to drastically reduce budgetary allocation for the strategic grain reserve will come with serious implications.
The Division of Revenue Bill 2018 indicates that the Treasury has set aside Sh1.28 billion next year from Sh4.29 billion to replenish the country’s food stocks.
The amount is just enough to buy 400,000 bags going by the Sh3,200 that the government was paying farmers for deliveries. But this quantity can only feed Kenyans for less than a week.
The tragedy is that this is coming at a time when millions of Kenyans are on the brink of starvation following a debilitating drought.
Two weeks ago, the Red Cross launched a campaign to raise Sh1 billion to feed 3.4 million people across the country. The projected fall of about five million bags of maize following bad weather and pest attack in the country’s bread basket does not provide a rosy outlook either.
Instead of spending billions of shillings on expensive food subsidies as happened last year, the government should put in place a mechanism that involves regularly buying maize from farmers at a price that makes business sense, and paying them on time.
This way, it will have killed two birds with a single stone by assuring farming viability and maintaining a healthy national granary.