Blame game: NCPB hit by shortage of bags to store grain

Trucks and tractors deliver maize to the National Cereals and Produce Board Eldoret depot on February 15. [Kevin Tunoi, Standard]
Lack of adequate jute bags to store maize in depots and buying centres is threatening to delay purchase of two million bags for the Strategic Grain Reserve (SFR).

The bags are essential for storage of grains in areas that do not have silos in the country.

National Cereals and Produce and Board (NCPB) has announced that there is a deficit of 3.6 million 50kg bag of maize.

Speaking on phone, NCPB acting managing director Albin Sang said the shortage of bags has seen farmers wait in queues as the delivery process drags on.

Mr Sang explained that the bags are essential for packaging 1.2 million 50kg bags of old maize in silos.

“The old maize is supposed to be sold in bulk or bagged before sale, but the jute bags should be availed,” he added.

Waiting for the money

It has been the norm for farmers to either transport their maize in bulk or in 50kg bag.

“Why are we being taken in circles by the State, I have been in the queues at depots since last week and being told that they lack bags that will store our grains is a big joke, it seems they had not planned well,” said Stephen Kibet a farmer from Moiben region.

He added: “What is urgent is about 2 million bags of 50 kg we are supposed to buy in places that do not have silos and use conventional stores which include, Ziwa, Turbo, Kipkarren, Kericho, Lower Narok, Nandi, Lugari, Migori among others,”

Sang noted that the availability of bags will see opening of most depots in the country and will speed up the purchase of maize on behalf of SFR.

According to NCPB, 100,000 50kg bags had been purchased against the expected 2 million bags of maize.

SFR on the other hand maintained that the Treasury is to blame for failing to avail funds for the purchase of the bags.

“We are waiting for the money we requisitioned for the purchase of jute bags a month ago. At the moment we do not have vote for the bags,” said SFR Chairman Noah Wekesa who spoke yesterday on phone.

He added: “NCPB are our agents and farmers should deliver their maize in clean bags and when we get new ones, the grains can be transferred. This should not stop them from delivering their maize to the depots,”

Dr Wekesa asked farmers to use the available silos to deliver their maize in bulk without necessarily taking the grains in bags.

Kenya Farmers Association Director Kipkorir Menjo accused NCPB and SFR of perpetuating inefficiency in the agriculture sector.

Inefficiency

“It is evident that the two institutions are not reading from the same script. There are areas that do not have silos, how do you expect farmers to avail their grains when there are not in jute bags. This is the reason why we are pushing for restructuring in the agriculture sector,” he said.

He called on President Uhuru Kenyatta to crack the whip on officials he accused of letting the farmers down.

“Seriously there is no coordination. Does it mean the ministry had not thought of setting aside money for storage bags when they knew that harvest was due last year?” he posed.

Strategic Grain ReserveNational Cereals and Produce and Boardjute bags