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Economy

Munya, Wekesa differ on maize importation plan

Workers dry maize
Workers dry maize outside a milling firm in Eldoret. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya and the Strategic Food Reserve (SFR) chairman Noah Wekesa are headed on a collision path over the imports of maize to bridge an impending shortage.

The Noah Wekesa- led fund has requested the Ministry of Agriculture for importation of four million bags of maize to refill the SFR reservoirs and curb a shortage. However, Mr Munya says they will not import maize at the moment until the claims from SFR are verified.

“We are not going to import maize until a proper assessment has been done and approved by the Cabinet,” said Mr Munya.

Mr Wekesa said the SFR has Sh10 billion in its account, which it can use for the imports once the green light has been issued.

The government said a food security committee that moved round the country assessing the stocks indicated that the available stocks can only last up to the end of April, meaning that Kenya will have to seek alternative stock to cushion consumers from high prices of flour.

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SFR has so far exhausted all the buffer stocks that is normally used by the country to cushion against hunger in times of a serious grain shortage.

Cereal Growers Association will be meeting next week to come up with a position on planned imports by the SFR.

“We shall be meeting as members to agree on the way forward in regard to the planned imports and give our stand on the issue,” said CGA chief executive officer Anthony Kioko.

Farmers have for long been opposed to imports arguing that it affects the price of local produce, hence subjecting them to losses.

In 2017, the government was accused of stage-managing a crisis by ignoring all warning of an impending shortage only to flood the market with the staple when local farmers were harvesting, leaving them with great losses.in 2018 for as low as Sh1,800 per bag from a high of Sh2,500 in the previous season.

Maize production in the last season was forecasted to drop by 10 million bags following a reduction in area under the crop as a result of delayed rains, which saw some farmers shift to other crops.

As a result of the tightening supply of maize in the market, the price of maize flour has remained high in the market with a two kilo packet retailing at Sh130 since last year in May.

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