Board tours Eldoret as maize import debate rages

Chairman of The Strategic Food Reserve Fund Noah Wekesa says there is enough maize in the Country during a press briefing at the Panafric Hotel accompanied with members of Parliament from the North Rift. [Wilberforce Okwiri/Standard]

Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR) board is expected to meet farmers in North Rift today amid raging debate on planned maize importation.

The board, chaired by Dr Noah Wekesa (pictured), will hold the meeting at Uasin Gishu County Hall in Eldoret where farmers and leaders from maize-producing regions of Uasin Gishu, Trans Nzoia, Nandi and Elgeyo Marakwet counties are expected to attend.

The meeting's top agenda is expected to be how to mop up maize stocks currently held by farmers in the region.

“The SGR team is expected to discuss issues of maize including how the Government plans to buy the produce through the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) to guarantee food security in the country,” said Samuel Yego, the Uasin Gishu County executive for agriculture.

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Government's plan

Farmers and leaders from the country’s grain basket, have protested plans by the Government to import 12.5 million bags of maize to address current shortages.

Critics of the maize import plan have questioned the rationale of shipping in the cereal when local farmers are still holding vast stocks. They accuse the Government of frustrating farmers from delivering their produce to the NCPB.

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Anxiety has been building ahead of today's meeting with a number of farmers saying had not been notified of the agenda.

“After last year’s harvests, we were told that there was a lot of maize and were restricted in supplying to NCPB. Why should there be shortage now?” said Tom Korgoren, a farmer in Uasin Gishu.

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Kenya Farmers Association (KFA) director in North Rift region, Kipkorir Menjo, said the association expects SGR to tell farmers about its preparedness to buy local maize.

“The current budget estimates did not factor funds for the purchase of SGR through NCPB. We want the board to explain how it plans to replenish its stocks and reveal quantities to be bought from farmers,” said Mr Menjo.

The association hopes a supplementary budget will have crafted to buy maize from farmers.

“There should be policies in place to curb a crisis in the maize sector every season,” said Menjo.

Speaking to The Standard yesterday, Soy MP Caleb Kositany said the SGR board and the Agriculture ministry should team up to address maize farmers' concerns.

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“An audit should be carried out to establish quantities of maize in NCPB stores and what farmers still have before recommending importation,” said Kositany.

Meanwhile a co-chairman of the taskforce formed by President Uhuru Kenyatta to address maize crisis has ruled out imports until the country’s grain deficit is ascertained and made public.

Governor Jackson Mandago, who co-chairs the taskforce with Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri, said the planned importation of 12.5 million bags, as harvesting seasons in North Rift and Western Kenya approach, should be disallowed by the State.

Mr Mandago said CS Kiunjuri had assured the taskforce that no maize will be imported before the exact shortage is ascertained.

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SGRNorth RiftDr Noah WekesaMaize farmers