Relief to farmers as Ruto halts maize importation

Workers offloading bags of maize at a warehouse in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu. [Peter Ochieng, Standard]

The government has finally heeded the cries of maize farmers and suspended the planned importation of maize which had caused outrage across the country.

President William Ruto finally broken his silence on the maize debate when he presided over his second Cabinet meeting, at State House, Nairobi.

Ruto said plans to import duty-free maize to stock up the strategic grain reserve has been shelved to give priority to Kenyan farmers.

Prior to the meeting, Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria had given farmers a 72-hour ultimatum to sell maize to the National Cereals and Produce Board and accused them of hoarding the produce.

But according to a statement sent to newsrooms, Ruto said he will give priority to local maize farmers so as not to hurt the Kenyan market.

“With this year’s crop estimated to yield about 30 million bags of maize and in honour of our nation’s sacred duty to our farmers, Cabinet resolves that the farmers produce will be accorded priority access to the market,” he said.

The president further said the country would instead import 10 million bags of maize from February next year duty-free to bridge the deficit that will be recorded in this year’s harvest season.

The president added that due to the annual consumption trend of maize of about 45 million bags the government has no option but to add more for food security

“In recognition of the annual consumption trends of about 45 million bags of maize, the deficit arising from the lower than expected domestic yields will be bridged through the importation of 10 million bags of maize,” he said.

The president said as part of government’s long-term food security plan, farmers will access fertiliser at a subsidised cost of Sh3,500, to bring down the cost of food production.

And in solidarity with Kenyans who have been affected by drought, Cabinet resolved that all members will forego one month salary and channel the funds towards assisting drought-stricken Kenyans.

The president sanctioned the rollout of Cholera Vaccination Programme targeting at least two million people in the high-risk areas of Nairobi, Machakos and Garissa.