Linturi promises lower unga and rice prices in February

Agriculture cabinet secretary Mithika Linturi at Kilimo house. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

The cost of maize flour and rice will drop by the end of February even as the government imports the same, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi has assured.

Mr Linturi has said Kenyans will have a sigh of relief by end of next month or March when thousands of tonnes of consignment of imported food arrive at the port of Mombasa.

"The end of February or March, the cost of unga and rice will come down because the government has ordered maize, rice and sugar from outside the country," he said.

Speaking when he toured the tea trade auction in Mombasa, the CS however called for increased local food production and planting of trees to remedy drought caused by climate change.

He said the government has decided to import food not because it wants, but because the drought situation is so bad Kenyans will die because of lack of food if that is not done.

The government plans to import 10 million bags of maize between February and April to address a biting food shortage.

The government recently invited well-wishers to intervene in donating food to address the worsening food situation.

To boost local food production, Linturi said the government will put idle public land under agriculture targeting parcels belonging to National Youth Service, Agricultural Development Corporation and the prisons department.

"The government is going to put under agriculture more than one million acres. Public land by NYS, ADC and prisons should not lie idle," he said.

Linturi said ongoing distribution of relief food was only a short-term intervention but the long-term measure should be increased food production and mitigation against climate change that has caused persistent drought.

"The effects of drought are what we did not do 10 years ago. Climate change has caused drought and food relief is not sustainable. The issue of drought is a long-term situation to address," he said.

Linturi asked investors to invest in value addition for tea to increase earnings for farmers in the country, noting that the demand for value-added tea was high.

"I am asking investors to invest in value addition because demand for value-added tea is high. We must get the best for our farmers," he added.