Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri appeared before Parliament to explain why he is pushing for maize importation when all indications suggest the country has enough stock.
The MPs claim Kiunjuri’s importation plans are suspect and are meant to enrich maize cartels at the expense of millions of farmers across the country.
Millers are on the verge of running out of maize as the dispute between the ministry, the Strategic Food Reserve, millers and the National Cereals and Produce Board persists.
About 50 of the country’s 200 millers have closed because of the maize shortage, according to the United Grain Millers Association.
The shortage has increased prices for a bag of maize and also added to flour and feed costs.
Kiunjuri stated that there is deficit in the national cereals board that needs to be filled adding that since the mexico importation window closed, the option is now comesa countries putting it clear that they will import from Ethiopia.
Kenya is currently facing a shortfall in domestic maize supply forcing it to import the commodity which is the dominant staple food for the majority of Kenyans.
The country consumes between 1.5 and 1.7 million bags of maize in a month.
The legislators say that there is no justification for the imports and that the argument of an impending shortage is a lie.
Through the agriculture committee, the MPs told Mwangi Kiunjuri to drop the push because the hard times are over.
The committee cited statistics from the Strategic Grain Reserve which shows the country can do without the maize importation.
Committee chairman Adan Haji (Mandera South) said the opening stock at the NCPB in May before the government began to sell to millers was 4.2 million bags of maize.
Of this, 1.7 million bags were sanctioned to be sold to millers in order to reduce the price of maize flour on the shelves.
“That leaves 2.5 million bags which are in stock, there is a cabinet memo that is awaiting approval of a further 1.7 million to be released to millers this month, which means in July the millers are covered, there is no reason to see prices hiked,” Haji said.
He added, “We are left with August, and if you look at the ministry’s own statistics, we are talking of 1.5 to 1.7 million bags per month required by all millers in the country, we just need another 1.7 million bags to cover us in August. We are now waiting for harvests.”
MPs Emmanuel Wangwe (Navakholo), Florence Mutua (Busia MP), Justus Murunga (Matungu), Silvanus Osoro (South Mugirango) and Daniel Tuitoek (Magotio) who sit in the committee read mischief in the planned importation.
“Someone somewhere is raising alarm for no reason. This is a clever way to invite cartels and businesspeople to import maize,” Wangwe who is also the vice-chair of the committee said.
Mutua questioned the necessity of the importing expensive maize when local farmers were offered a lower price.
“Why does he want to import maize at Sh5,000 and they cannot buy local maize at Sh3,200? We know it is cartels who want to do the importation,” Mutua said.
The MPs are expected to tell Kiujuri off of the importation plans.
“In South, Rift maize is starting to get ready, we want to ask the CS to stop the process of importation of maize,” Tuitoek said.
The MPs’ views are in line with the position taken by Strategic Food Reserve Trust Fund – a state agency domiciled in Kiunjuri’s docket – which has differed with the CS over the matter.
The Fund’s chairperson Noah Wekesa has maintained that the maize in the reserves, together with those from expected harvests will be enough for the country.