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MPs send away food reserve team over new maize prices

Dinah Ondari and Dickens Wasonga @PeopleDailyKe

A stand-off ensued between MPs and Strategic Food Reserve Fund (SFRF) board members yesterday over the criteria used to set the Sh2,300 price per 90 kg bag the latter  said would be paid once the National Treasury avails funds.

The impasse coincided with acknowledgment by the government that over 300,000 bags of maize at the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) depot in Kisumu is discoloured, raising concerns over its safety for human consumption.

In Nairobi, members of the National Assembly Agriculture Committee sent a team led by Chairman Noah Wekesa away, accusing them of failing to provide a rational basis for the measure.

The committee chaired by  Adan Haji (Mandera South) felt the board was frustrating farmers as the cost of production was much higher than the Sh2,3000 which would lead to farmers making huge losses.

“We need a report backed by numbers and evidence that you did proper background checks  which led you  to this conclusion, any other thing will be deemed as just a mere statement from a politician” said the committee.

Ferdinand Wanyonyi (Kwanza) said the committee expected a price of not less than Sh3,200 per bag. According to Wekesa the board set the price it offered last year on the basis of the fact that there had been  large imports during the duty free window allowed by the government in mid 2017, apposition that the Mps dismissed.

The committee felt farmers were not consulted. But Wekesa defended the SFR leadership, saying the decision was derived from policy guidelines of the ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Irrigation set in September.

Maize production

“The  board conducted a survey in February on the cost of maize production together with the ministry of Agriculture and Tegemeo Institute. Counties covered in the survey include Bungoma, Trans Nzoia and Uasin Gishu. We consulted small-scale and large-scale farmers, the Kenya cereals board, the ministry of agriculture before arriving at the price,”  he said.

As a result, Wekesa  said the board had initially set the price at Sh1, 539 per 90kg bag but resolved to adjust it upwards  to ensure farmers are able to make profit among other consideration such as tax.

“The board further gave a provision of Sh176 to cushion farmers against unforeseen market factors affecting prices. In consideration of the above, the Strategic Food Reserve Oversight Board set a price of Sh2, 300 per 90kg bag,”  he said.

Meanwhile, speaking at NCPB depot in Kisumu, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri said over 300,000 bags  at the facility have  been founds to be discoloured, adding that the stock is part of the 600,000 bags the board purchased from farmers and stored at the facility last year.

He said a technical team comprising officers from Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs), ministry of Health, Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) and crops department was at the facility to investigate the cause of the discolouration.

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