Mercy Mwai @wangumarci
Members of the National Assembly yesterday clashed with top Ministry of Agriculture officials over the Sh2,300 maize price set by the government recently.
While the MPs insisted the price should be reviewed upwards, the ministry officials led by the Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Andrew Tuimur maintained that their hands are tied and thus are not able to make any changes.
Speaking when he appeared before the National Assembly’s Agriculture committee, he said the State does not have adequate budgetary provision to purchase all the maize being held by farmers, the Sh2,300 that was set aside by the Strategic Food Reserves (SFR) board and endorsed by the Cabinet is adequate.
Current economic times
“On the pricing issue, the ministry did its part through the SFR. The price has been set and there is nothing I can do because my hands are tied,” he said.
In particular, Tuimur told the MPs that the price was arrived at following an agreed upon formula that carefully considered the current economic times.
He also clarified that in setting up the price, the government took care of the welfare of farmers as the price takes care of the production costs, which was about Sh1,500.
Following the move, he said the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCBP) will start buying maize from farmers in January.
During this window, farmers will be at liberty to sell maize harvested last year or maize harvested this year so long as it will meet the standards set aside by the SFR.
During last year’s harvests, NCPB bought 6.5 million bags of maize out of the 40 million bags of maize harvested by farmers.
“As to whether the SFR will start buying the 2017 or 2018 maize, this will depend on what farmers want,” he said.
But the MPs led by the committee chairperson Adan Haji demanded that the government reviews the prices to ensure that the interests of farmers are taken care of.
The MPs, who included Silas Tiren (Moiben), Alfred Keter (Nandi Hills), Joshua Kutuny (Cherengany), Simba Arati ( Dagorreti North), Ferdinand Wanyonyi (Kwanza) and Justus Murunga (Matungu) ordered the ministry officials to present a proposal to them that will help them look for money in the supplementary budget that will be considered next year.
The MPs vowed to reallocate money from non-performing ministries to go to the purchase of maize.
“Please find money elsewhere in the ministry and take it to the SFR so that you can increase the number of bags you are buying from 2.5 million bags to three million bags,” said Haji.
Wanyonyi regretted that the ministry was flogging a dead horse as the ministry was clear that the process would not be changed.
Tiren rejected the new price and demanded to know why the government lowered it from the Sh3,200 that it has set earlier yet the cost of production had gone up.
Kutuny and Keter regretted that low price discourage the farmers from selling maize to SFR as they are not making any profit.