Nicholas Waitathu and George Kebaso @PeopleDailyKe
The government has released Sh1.4 billion by National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) owed to small-scale farmers even as it emerged transporters will have to wait longer for their dues.
Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa yesterday assured farmers who delivered maize last year to NCPB depots that they would be paid from next Monday.
Speaking at Treasury Building, Wamalwa emphasised that this amount is part of the outstanding Sh3.5 billion that has been owed to the growers for close to one year now.
“We assure farmers who delivered their maize to Strategic Grain Reserves across the country that we have enough money to pay them,” he said.
Wamalwa said farmers and traders who delivered large quantities of maize would be paid later.
“That is an issue we are addressing separately with large-scale farmers,” Wamalwa stated during a briefing on the upcoming inaugural Arid and Semi-Arid Lands conference to be held in Malindi, Kilifi County next month.
He asked small-scale growers to visit their respective NCPB depots to verify payment details.
“We established a multi-agency team led by officials my ministry, and our counterparts from Agriculture ministry, the National Strategic Food Reserve Fund and the NCPB to investigate complaints over payments that could have favoured traders at the expense of genuine farmers for the 2017/2018 crop season,” the CS said.
Wamalwa assured the country of enough maize in the government’s Strategic Grain Reserves, and expected an addition of between six and eight million bags from the current harvest.
As farmers wait for the cash to hit their accounts, transporters will have to wait for Sh1.1 billion the Government owes them for transport services offered to NCPB for the last 20 months.
Yesterday, more than 70 transporters staged demonstrations outside the NCPB head offices and later sought audience with the Agriculture and Irrigation Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri at Kilimo House.
Isaac Asiyo, a representative of the transporters, said those who lifted imported maize from ports of entry had not being paid. The Government imported six million bags from Mexico, Uganda, Zambia and Ethiopia to tame acute food crisis that followed the prolonged drought.
Wamalwa confirmed that government is fast tracking the payment of debts owed to various players but hastened to add that small-scale farmers will be given the first priority. “Small-scale farmers will have been paid by August 20 followed by the transporters,” he said.
But, transporters warned that should the government fail to clear the debts there will be interruption on distribution of subsidised fertiliser during the short rains season scheduled to start early October thus jeopardise food production in the country.
They said payment delay was affecting their operations due to mounting debts such as value added tax, fuel, bank charges and salaries.
“Currently, NCPB needs to move maize from Kisumu, Bungoma, Eldoret and Moi’s Bridge depots. We are unable to provide the services because of lack of funds to meet operational costs,” he said.