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Confusion over maize prices as PS denies Sh3,000 remark



Three Rift Valley MPs yesterday accused powerful individuals in government of forcing Agriculture and Research PS Hamadi Boga to retract his statement on new maize prices.

Boga had been quoted in the media as saying the ministry had reviewed the price of a 90kg bag from Sh2,300 to Sh3,000 for supplies to the Strategic Grain Reserve.

On November 5, the SFR board announced that it would buy the current maize harvest at Sh2,300 per 90kg bag, a decision that was later approved by the Cabinet.

North Rift farmers and politicians rejected the price and urged the government to raise it.

Alfred Keter (Nandi Hills), Silas Tiren (Moiben) and Cherangany’s Joshua Kutuny did not name names. They said they will not be deterred from championing farmers’ interests. The government will buy two million bags for Sh4.6 billion. The National Treasury has yet to release the cash.

Read: Cabinet approves Sh2,300 for maize purchase

Farming not a hobby

The media report came as a surprise, given the government’s stance. But in a statement, Boga denied making the comment attributed to him. Doing so would insinuate that he was challenging a Cabinet decision, he said.

“The Sh2,300 recommendation as per the Cabinet decision has not changed. As a PS, I can only implement it. I’d like to state categorically that as a PS, I have no powers to settle debates on maize pricing between the government, farmers and politicians, or any other debates for that matter,” the statement read. 

“My responsibility is to implement Cabinet decisions, and government policy and strategies. For farming to be meaningful, it must be technology led and market-guided.”

Keter and Tiren read mischief. They urged CS Mwangi Kiunjuri to clarify the exact price.

 “We woke up to news that the price per bag will now be Sh3,000, only to hear later in the day that the ministry issued another statement disassociating itself from their own remarks,” Keter said.

“We don’t want farmers left in a state of confusion. It’s very unfortunate for farmers that even after Parliament pronounced itself on this matter, the government has chosen to ignore their plight.”

Tiren said they are aware of a plot by cartels to sabotage the maize sector in order to import maize. He said those calling on farmers to diversify and plant other crops are mischievous. No feasibility studies have been carried out to determine if the proposed crops for diversification will be viable, Tiren said.

“Farmers are so bitter. They are not happy at all and are really suffering. It’s sad some cartels want to take advantage of our farmers. I urge the President to kindly review these prices because farmers need to be motivated. Farming is not a hobby, it is a business,” Tiren said

Read: Rift MPs reject Uhuru’s offer of Sh2,300 for a bag of maize

Artificial shock

In a statement, Kutuny said they will not relent in pushing for famers’ welfare. He dismissed as unfair the formula used by the Strategic Grain Reserve to arrive at Sh2,300.

“Our position on Sh3,600 per 90kg bag of maize as demanded by the farmers stands. Our farmers have harvested a lot of maize this season and I am calling on the concerned agencies to consider reviewing the quantity of maize they intend to buy,” Kutuny said.

 “I want to appeal to the government to pay farmers promptly for produce delivered to NCPB depots to enable them to take their children to school next year.”

On November 6, Moiben MP Silas Teren asked why the government bought imported maize at Sh3,600 but is now reducing the price.

Yesterday, Timothy Njagi, a researcher at Tegemeo Institute, said buying maize at Sh3,000 will attract grain from other countries and in the end, farmers will not benefit as the glut will drive down the price.

“This price will not be sustainable. It’ll attract all the maize from the region to Kenya. Tanzania currently has 16 million bags and they rely on the Kenyan market. If you offer a higher price, all farmers in the region will be happy to offer maize to Kenya. Eventually, the price will come down. In fact, it may be lower than what is currently being offered in the market,” he said.

Njagi said Sh3,000 would create an artificial shock, which would lead to oversupply and the problem will be pushed to next year. According to a report from the institute, the cost of production last year was Sh1,900 per bag for small-scale farmers and Sh1,800 for large-scale farmers.

“This means the initial focus of 46 million bags for 2018 will decrease to about 42 million bags. But despite the decline, the stock will be enough to last the country until July next year, hence no need to import,” Njagi said.

“There is need to look at the maize issue from the producer to consumer level. The government should allow the forces of supply and demand to take its course. The government should only provide subsidies to farmers but should not be in maize business.”

More: MPs: Ruto wants to bring Congo maize

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