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Pressure mounts on State to increase maize prices

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By NATION TEAM
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Pressure is mounting on the government to review the cost of a 90kg bag of maize following an outcry from farmers, as leaders clash on the new price set by the Agriculture ministry.

On Sunday, Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria accused his Rift Valley counterparts of mischief and blackmail over their opposition to the new maize prices offered by the government, saying the prices are justified.

Mr Kuria laughed off the claims by three MPs that they had not been consulted by Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri before approving the new prices, saying Mt Kenya region is the main producer of vegetables but its leaders are never consulted over the prices of their produce.

Legislators Silas Teren (Moiben), Alfred Keter (Nandi Hills), Joshua Kutuny (Cherangany) and Joshua Kandie (Baringo Central) had lashed out at Mr Kiunjuri, threatening to rally maize farmers in the region to reject the new prices.

They said the proposed price of Sh2,300 per 90kg bag of maize is below the production cost.

The MPs want the government to buy the maize at Sh3,600 for a 90kg bag. Last year, the State bought maize at Sh3,200.

“Vegetables usually served with ugali comes from Central Kenya but we don’t talk about it. They should be thankful that the government has considered them and stop issuing fake threats,” Mr Kuria said.

Meanwhile, a Senate ad-hoc committee has rejected the maize prices.

The Moses Wetang’ula-led committee questioned the rationale for the price decline from Sh3,200 to Sh2,300, saying the cost of farm inputs had increased with the introduction of various levies including the eight per cent value added tax on fuel.

“The new prices are unacceptable,” Mr Wetang’ula said.

More leaders from the Rift Valley including Elgeyo Marakwet deputy governor Wesley Rotich and Baringo Central MP Joshua Kandie also voiced their concerns, saying the new prices are too low.

“It is unfair for the government to buy maize from farmers at such a price yet they have incurred a lot of expenses from planting to harvesting. The price should be reviewed upward to Sh3,600,” Mr Rotich said.

Last week, MPs Kutuny, Tiren and Keter sensationally linked Deputy President William Ruto and his allies to the importation of Mexican maize and subsidised fertiliser, and called for a probe.

Mr Tiren said they contested the maize prices when the Strategic Food Reserve board made the announcement early this month.

On his part, Central Organisation of Trade Unions secretary-general Francis Atwoli is alleging that leaders from the North Rift were taking advantage of grain growers by flooding the local market with imported maize.

Without adducing any evidence, he claimed that the legislators from the region are stealing from farmers. “The maize which is flooding the local market is not brought into the country by foreigners but local leaders. What these leaders are doing is akin to a son stealing from his mother,” Mr Atwoli said.

He was speaking in Eldoret during the Nehema Technical Training Institute’s 7th graduation ceremony.

Reported by Ndungu Gachane, Onyango K’onyango, Stanley Kimuge, Magdalene Wanja and Florah Koech

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