Ministerial team to assess quality of NCPB maize

Mwangi Kiunjuri.
Agriculture and Livestock Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

An inter-ministerial committee has been formed to run fresh audit on the suitability of maize in the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) silos just days after Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) said that 63.3 percent of the maize is unfit for human consumption.

Agriculture and Livestock Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri told the National Assembly committee on Agriculture that the team will be required to make its recommendations by Friday this week.

Its membership is drawn from, among others, the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIs), Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro), Public Health, Government Chemist and Kebs.

“By the end of the week this committee should be able to tell us the actual position of the safety of maize in the stores across the country,” Mr Kiunjuri told the MPs.

In October, Kebs wrote to the NCPB, indicating that 63.3 percent of about eight million bags of maize bought from local farmers as well as imports are unfit for human consumption and should be destroyed.

Already, the government is planning to destroy 2.1 million bags that are discoloured, infected with aflatoxin, fumonisin and, therefore, beyond human consumption.

They include 1.2 million bags that are discoloured, 750,000 that are heavily attacked by weevils and the 240,000 imported from Mexico last year at a high moisture content of 14 percent, which is infected with aflatoxin, fumonisin among other toxins.

Although Mr Kiunjuri said that discoloured maize may not be that bad, the whole contaminated lot has been set aside. The contamination of the maize bought in October last year is attributed to bad storage by the NCPB as it has a shelf life of 24 months. It was also not clear why the government chose to import maize from Mexico at a high moisture content.

An explanation by the CS that the government hoped to sell it immediately was faulted by the committee chaired by Mandera South MP Aden Haji.

The CS also said the NCPB was incompetent, leading to the problems the country is facing in its Strategic Food Reserve (SFR).

“The NCPB managers cannot be insulated because if you do so you will be running away from the reality and responsibility. They are guilty as charged,” Mr Kiunjuri said.

His comments were in reference to the NCPB failure to ensure the maize is safe as well as ensure that only genuine farmers got paid for their produce.

Towards the end of last year and at the beginning of this year, traders and brokers took advantage of the attractive Sh3,200 premium offered by the government for a 90 kilograme bag to supply huge quantities of maize.