Powerful cartels are working with government officials to create an artificial maize shortage so that they are allowed to import the cereal, according to a Rift Valley MP.
Nandi Hills’ Alfred Keter told the press at Parliament Buildings yesterday that the same cartels were discouraging farmers in the North Rift to abandon maize for avocado farming.
They are out to create the perception of serious maize shortage to profit from the importation, Keter said.
The MP said that farmers have enough grains in their stores and urged the government to buy the cereal at a favourable price instead of being hoodwinked to import it.
“Cartels, who were encouraging farmers in the North Rift to abandon maize for avocado farming, are now trying to create an artificial shortage so that they can profit from importation of maize as witnessed in the previous years,” he said.
Keter said Rift Valley and Western farmers have more than 25 million bags in their stores because the government’s offer of Sh2,500 per bag would leave made them with losses.
“I urge the government to first buy from the farmers at the current market price of Sh3,500 per bag. The government had budgeted Sh5 billion to purchase two million bags from farmers at Sh2,500 which was and is still lower than the current market price of Sh3,500. So far, the farmers have supplied NCPB with only 300,000 bags, citing lower prices.”
In a thinly veiled attack on Deputy President William Ruto, the MP claimed that Rift Valley politicians calling for diversification are the cartels he was talking about.
The DP is on record urging farmers to diversify to solve the problem of low maize prices. “We are not telling farmers to abandon maize altogether. We are just rooting for diversification because maize is no longer profitable,” he said last year.
Ruto urged farmers to venture in French beans, vegetables, passion fruit, avocados, tea, coffee and macadamia nuts.
Keter told the cartels to leave the farmers alone and instead import avocados if they think it can feed the country.
“We cannot sabotage farmers at the expense of making a few individuals billionaires. We cannot promote cartels at the expense of the farmers.”
Last week, Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri said the country has 21.3 million, 90-kg bags of maize in stores.
He said that small-scale farmers are holding about 13 million bags, traders 3.3 million bags while 4.3 million bags are in NCPB stores.
Residents of northern Kenya counties are facing acute food shortage due to the prolonged drought. The counties include Turkana, West Pokot, Marsabit, Turkana, Isiolo and Baringo. Others in need of food are Nyeri (Kieni), Embu (Mbeere), and Makueni.