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Committee summons Kiunjuri, Rotich over fertiliser crisis

Mercy Mwai @wangumarci

A parliamentary committee has now summoned Cabinet secretaries Mwangi Kiunjuri and Henry Rotich to shed light on subsidised fertiliser on the day that it alleged that cartels were behind the cancellation of tender to supply the fertiliser.

The Departmental Committee on Agriculture claimed that the country is staring at a crisis since the contract expired on January 12 and currently there is no procedure on how the country can import fertiliser.

The expiry of the contract, that was to last for two years, expired after Attorney General Paul Kihara raised concerns about how it was procured.

The committee, chaired by Mandera East MP Adan Haji, yesterday claimed that Kihara is also to blame for the current crisis as he failed to advise the ministry on the way forward after cancelling the tender.

Following the move, the committee now wants the Ministry of Agriculture to use whichever means including direct procurement to buy the fertiliser.

Heavy rains

He said: “As we speak, there is a crisis as farmers do not have fertilisers. We want Kiunjuri and Rotich to appear before this committee to tell Kenyans how they are planning to handle the matter.”

Haji regretted that the country risks not having any fertiliser should the government fail to procure as planting season in the North Rift normally starts in March and April during the heavy rains.

Accompanied by other committee members, Haji appealed to President Uhuru Kenyatta and Interior CS Fred Matiang’i to intervene so that farmers can proceed with planting. He regretted the pillar on food security risks failing if the matter is not addressed.

He added: “A majority of farmers are suffering. We want to appeal to the President and the new Chief Minister to intervene because if it is not handled the Big Four agenda will also suffer.”

Exorbitant prices

On his part, the committee’s vice chair Emmanuel Wangwe claimed that cartels are holding the ministry at ransom so that it can sell the imported fertiliser to farmers at exorbitant prices. He said: “Kiunjuri is under siege. Some people are holding the ministry at ransom so that they can sell their fertiliser.”

If the government fails to procure the fertiliser by next month, farmers will have to purchase the commodity at a market price ranging from Sh3,200 to Sh3,500 for every 50kg bag of diammonium phosphate.

At the same time the committee confirmed that Sh5 billion to purchase maize from farmers has been disbursed to the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB).

Haji said NCPB is currently handling storage logistics before they can start buying maize from farmers. The Ministry through the Strategic Food Reserve was authorised to purchase two million, 90kg bags at Sh2,500 each.

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