Bitter-sweet as senate okays Change in NCPB Law

A bitter-sweet aftertaste is expected to linger on even as the Senate has adopted proposals by farmers for the amendment of the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) Act.

Farmers want a revolving fund for the purchase of maize created as opposed to the current situation where NCPB is relying on money from the national government.

The Senate ad-hoc committee on agriculture, which visited maize-growing areas in the North Rift in September last year, is also proposing the registration of all farmers to weed out cartels who have infiltrated the sector.

“The Senate has adopted all proposals by farmers which, if implemented, will end many challenges bedevilling the agriculture sector,” said committee chairperson Margaret Kamar.

The team has also adopted a push by farmers to have guaranteed minimum returns.

According to Prof Kamar, this will assure growers of their true harvest value and make farming a viable investment.

Governors and farmers from maize-growing zones have been demanding that devolved units be allowed to manage the cereals board.

“Agriculture is a devolved function and we wonder why decisions are still made in Nairobi while farmers are with us here on the ground,” Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago told the committee during its sitting in Eldoret town last year.

During the stormy session, tempers flared with farmers hitting out at some leaders from the region who they accused of doing little to address their plight.

Prof Kamar, who addressed Uasin Gishu County Assembly on Thursday, said senators from maize-growing zones were in talks with governors to subsidise fertiliser for farmers.

This follows the announcement by the national government that it will not provide the crucial input this season.

“Lack of fertiliser is a threat to the country’s food security. Agriculture committees in all the county assemblies in the region should hold special sittings on maize,” Prof Kamar said.

She called on the government to implement the Maputo Declaration which calls for 10 per cent of the national budget allocated to agriculture.

“This will go a long way in boosting the country’s food security, which is one of the pillars of the President’s Big Four Agenda,” the senator said.

Prof Kamar was accompanied by senators Ms Mercy Cheben (nominated), Ms Petronila Were (nominated) and Dr Michael Mbito (Trans Nzoia).

On Monday last week, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri said his National Treasury counterpart Henry Rotich is to blame for failing to provide money to import subsidised fertiliser ahead of the planting season next month, when the long rains are expected.

The move leaves farmers at the mercy of local dealers, who are selling a 50-kilogramme bag of fertiliser at Sh3,500, compared with the Sh1,800 they would have paid for the government-subsidised input.

Appearing before the National Assembly’s Agriculture Committee on Monday, Mr Kiunjuri said his ministry’s efforts to procure 166,750 metric tonnes of the commodity began in August 2018.

In a process that included writing letters to Mr Rotich, Mr Kiunjuri told the MPs that he was instead told by the Treasury to operate within the approved budget of Sh4.3 billion.

Several counties in the North Rift, which is the country’s breadbasket, have threatened to impose taxes on any maize imported to the region to cushion farmers against fluctuating prices.

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