State shuts maize subsidy command centre Friday as millers fret over pay

Packets of maize flour at a Nyeri supermarket on March 16, 2022. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NMG

The Ministry of Agriculture shuts the maize flour subsidy command centre today (Friday) even after the programme was rocked by hoarding claims that saw middlemen pocket millions of shillings as retailers experienced stock outs.

Millers say some invoices arising from the products that they supplied before the programme came to an end a fortnight ago, have not been honoured.

“There are some invoices that are yet to be paid to millers by now but we are hopeful that they will be cleared soon,” said a miller who sought anonymity for fear of reprisal from the government.

We could not independently verify how much in total the government owes millers by the time of going to press.

Agriculture Principal Secretary Francis Owino on Wednesday said the command centre will be closed today, however, he did not respond on the issue of pending payments.

“We will draw the curtains of the command centre on Friday,” Dr Owino told the Business Daily. This comes days after millers revealed that as they offloaded their flour, it was hoarded on such a big scale that it would take up to a month to clear the stocks being held by middlemen that bought the cheap stocks and kept them to make a killing after the end of the subsidy.

In the original agreement that was reached by the ministry before the programme was rolled out in mid-July, the government was to clear millers' dues within five days but the timeline was later revised to 24 hours.

Millers are now worried that the closure of the command centre could see their payment take longer to be settled.

The government opened an Escrow account to give millers assurance that they will be paid their money on time after supplies are made to avoid the recurrence of what happened in 2017 when the State failed to pay processors on time in a similar programme.

Millers are still owed over Sh2 billion from the 2017 subsidy and had given an undertaking recently that it would clear the arrears by last month.

At least 190 millers out of 320 in the country were enrolled in the subsidy programme that ran for a month.

President Uhuru Kenyatta had in July announced that the Sh100 flour would run indefinitely, however, the agreement between millers and the Ministry of Agriculture indicated that the scheme would end after four weeks.

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