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Heed IMF advice to lessen suffering Kenyans' pain

By Alexander Chagema - May 27th 2022

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has called on governments to subsidise food and energy. The call comes at a most opportune time when Kenyans are labouring under the weight of exorbitant food and fuel prices.

Runaway commodity prices are a global challenge wrought by Covid-19 and now the Russia-Ukraine war that started in February 2022. Incidentally, Russia and Ukraine are major exporters of food and oil.

Head of World Trade Organisation Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala warned in March that the Ukraine war could trigger food riots in many countries. Indeed, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned early this month after days of protests by citizens over food shortages and crippling power cuts.

For us, it has not yet come to that, but the government should take measures to cushion Kenyans against further hikes. Parliament should be commended for rejecting some of the provisions in the Finance Bill 2022 that would have increased Value Added Tax on maize and wheat flour, staple foods for most Kenyan households. But that is not enough as food prices have already go through the roof.

Importation of maize could go a long way in alleviating food shortages, but it would be pointless having stocks of maize that many households cannot afford. Meanwhile, as we await the first consignments of maize, we should not lose sight of the fact that the government has not bought all the surplus maize from local farmers even as more harvests are expected within the next three months. For long, there has been a standoff between farmers and the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) over the price of maize.

Farmers are aggrieved that what NCPB offers them is not commensurate with the cost of producing maize. We cannot fault farmers when fertiliser goes at Sh6,000 per 50 kg bag. The solution to this is for government to buy the maize at prices that will see farmers get some profit. Whatever it takes, government must ensure that no Kenyans dies from hunger.

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