STATEMENT BY HON RAILA ODINGA ON FOOD SITUATION:
THIS IS JUBILEE’S FAMINE AND HUNGER:
That Kenya was going to face a shortage of food was announced way back in October 2016.
Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development at Egerton University told the government that the country was going to face a major food shortage because the rains had failed not only in Kenya, but also in the entire East and Central African region.
Analysis that were made available to the government showed that the ten leading maize producing counties of Bungo¬ma, Busia, Elgeyo-Marakwet, Kakame¬ga, Nakuru, Nandi, Narok, Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu and Migori had all recorded dismal harvest.
The report that was authored by one Francis Karin, a researcher with the Institute, also found that Kenya’s neighbours had already detected the looming famine and were all erecting export bans on maize.
The Institute warned the government that it needed to start shopping for maize and recommended immediate early importations.
Tegemeo Institute continued to warn the government of the impending disaster particularly after the short rains failed towards the end of 2016.
In January this year, the Tegemeo Institute warned the government that the country would run out of maize by mid-April. Again it asked the government to start importing maize.
It went on to warn that La Nina could hurt pro¬duction during the October/ ¬December short rains and said:
“If we are going to run into any food shortage, beginning in May, we need to identify where we will source our maize from. There is need to know the world maize price, factor in the cost it will take to bring in maize in Kenya, add on to the 50 per cent import duty tar¬iff within East Africa and see what the price of a bag is going to be. Is it going to be affordable?”
The researcher asked where the maize from Galana/¬Kulalu, was going to and how much was being produced. Their parting words were:
“People tend to ignore signs and then they make it a crisis at the last minute and this becomes an avenue for corrupt practices of single sourc¬ing maize at exorbitant prices instead of tendering. This is the situation we do not want to find ourselves in next year.”
The response of the Jubilee government was to deny and demonise.
On January 18th 2017, the Cabinet Secretary of Agriculture Willy Bett was reported saying Kenya had enough food to last till June 2017. He famously said “We are still comfortable”.
He was supported by the Deputy President William Ruto who on 7thFebruary 2017, was reported saying that there was enough food locally and the government had shelved any plans to import duty free maize and no one would starve.
Earlier in June 2016, the chairman of the Cereal Millers Association, Nick Hutchinson warned that maize supply had remained unstable, causing flour prices to go up by about Sh15 in the past three months. Mr Hutchinson said members at that time held just 500,000 bags and were banking on the new harvest from Tanzania.
The millers’ lobby said its members had reduced production to 39 per cent of capacity as a maize shortage intensified, pushing up the unit cost of production.
Again, the government dismissed them. Speaking in Kirinyaga County, Mr Ruto accused millers of acting like cartels, saying the National Cereals and Produce Board stores had 10 million bags of maize and that it was enough to feed the country.
His words, as reported in the media on 24th June 2016 were: “We want to tell those spreading propaganda of maize shortage to stop their blackmail tactics to justify importation of the commodity. I want to assure Kenyans that we have sufficient maize from our farmers in our stores.”
CS Bett, speaking at the same function said; “Millers should stop causing unnecessary panic among Kenyans by misleading the country that there is shortage of food. We have more than 10 million bags enough to feed the country until the next harvesting season.”
In March 2017, the United Nations said that 2.7 Million Kenyans were facing starvation and that the number would reach 4 Million by April. The government acknowledged the crisis but again said we had enough food. The Cabinet Secretary of Devolution and Planning
Mwangi Kiunjuri released a statement after an inter-ministerial meeting held on January 12th 2017 re-assuring the country that there was enough food to last the country to June 2017.
As we have come to see, the government was lying and the situation was even worse than had been predicted by Tegemeo Institute. We ran out of food in March which resulted in the sharp rise in food prices in Kenya.
This has been a deliberate deception by the government with the intention of assisting famine-brokers make a killing from the drought situation. This is clear from the way the government has handled the issue of importation of maize from Ethiopia.
While the rest of East Africa was going through drought, Ethiopia managed a bumper harvest of 4,000,000 Metric Tonnes of maize. Of this, 1,000,000 Metric Tonnes were a surplus and available for export.
As the government was denying the imminent food shortage, the East African Grain Council was helping Kenya to access the surplus in Ethiopia to meet the shortage. On 23rd February 2017, The EAGC together with the East Africa Trade and Investment Hub hosted a one day “mini” trade mission in Addis Ababa where it enabled Seven Ethiopian Grain exporters meet Ten Kenyan grain buyers to enable Kenyans buy the surplus Ethiopian grain.
The mission resulted in Kenya clinching deals to import nearly 300,000 Metric Tonnes of maize. EAGC then asked the Kenya government to remove the Common External Tariff to enable the Ethiopian grain enter Kenya since Ethiopia was not a member of the East African Community.
The government refused saying the matter needed to be looked into further.
Still intent on helping Kenya, East African Grain Council and East Africa Trade and Investment Hub held another trade forum in Addis Ababa on 7th March 2017 to enable buying of Ethiopian maize.
The forum was attended by Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe. The purpose of the forum was to discuss the removal of trade barriers to enable grain trade with Ethiopia.
Still Kenya refused to lift its trade barrier with Ethiopia.
It was not until mid-April that duty was lifted from maize coming to Kenya. This appears to have been a deliberate move to profit some people. The timing coincided with the purchase of maize from Mexico. The government appears to have been intent on ensuring that the importers from Mexico do not get any competition from the Ethiopian importers.
The importers from Ethiopia complained that despite the announcement and subsequent gazettement of the duty free waiver, imports from Ethiopia continued to be charged tariffs at the border.
Indeed, the government appears very lukewarm about the maize from Ethiopia. Despite the fact that Ethiopia has enough grain to sort out all our shortages in a few days, we are not seeing great effort at bringing that grain to Kenya.
To date, the government has only bought 50,000 Metric Tonnes of Ethiopian maize of which only 25,000 Metric Tonnes have arrived in Kenya. We are receiving more maize from Mexico which is 45 days away by sea on the other end of the world than from neighbor Ethiopia which is only one day away by road.
Till today, the government is still frustrating the importation of food from Ethiopia. We understand the Government has delayed payments for the 50, 000 MT that it ordered for and the exporter has been forced to come to Nairobi where he has been for several days now running after his payment.
The clearance of lorries at Moyale is also being frustrated and only 10 lorries are being allowed through every day. Food is also in some cases being trans-shipped, transferred from Ethiopian lorries to Kenyan Lorries, adding days in the time the maize can get to Kenyans.
In the meantime, the man-made hunger is spreading. Super markets have ran out of not just the subsidized unga but all sorts of unga. This hunger is clearly manufactured. It is a Jubilee famine created and maintained by the regime’s incompetence, corruption and politics.
There is also a clear case of the use of the food for political purposes. In yesterday’s media, the Governor aspirant for Laikipia County Nderitu Muriithi complained that national government officials were using the 90 kg food as a campaign tool to manipulate Kenyans politically. He said people were being compelled to support some candidates so as to get food. He said people who did not support the government were being denied food.
This in an antique KANU method of politics in election period. We have come from an era where relief food was used to manipulate voters. We are seeing a resumption of this old style politics.
The president must take personal responsibility for the hunger of Kenyans
We are demanding the following:
1. President Uhuru Kenyatta must immediately get on to the earliest flight to Ethiopia to ask his counterpart to sell us maize. It will be cheaper and it will get here faster. When the President was faced by the ICC matter, he continuously lobbied Ethiopia for their support against the charges he faced. Why is he finding it inconveniencing to go to Ethiopia and lobby them for the sake of hungry Kenyans?
2. Immediately fire the Cs and PS of agriculture and the CS of Devolution and Planning for deliberately misleading Kenyans on the famine situation.
3. Remove the responsibility of importing maize from private millers entrust it on the Strategic Grain Reserves Fund. The fund officers must go to Ethiopia and carry out emergency purchases and ensure they get to Kenya immediately. The government has abdicated authority for a national security threat to profit making companies.
4. Immediately form a commission to inquire into the present food shortage with a view to ascertaining and reporting on the causes thereof, and to make recommendations to prevent recurrence.
Rt. Hon. Raila Amolo Odinga
Presidential candidate, NASA.