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State raises price of maize for farmers as Agriculture CS Bett quizzed

By Wilfred Ayaga | Published Fri, May 19th 2017 at 00:00, Updated May 18th 2017 at 23:15 GMT +3

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett with his PS Richard Lesiyampe when they appeared before the National Assembly Committee on Agriculture. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

The Government is ready to offer farmers Sh3,600 for a 90kg of maize, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett has said.

The revelation came Thursday as lawmakers demanded full disclosure of the the formula that informed a subsidy to lower the price of maize flour.

Mr Bett Thursday told MPs that in January this year, there were 13 million bags of maize, enough to last the country until this month.

He explained that farmers were hoarding 10 million bags, traders (2 million) and millers (900,000) as he defended the Government's projections on food security.

MPs pressed Bett to explain how the Government arrived at the subsidy of Sh1,300 for a 90kg bag of maize, and wondered if the intervention was meant to assist farmers or increase the profit margins of unscrupulous importers.

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Under the subsidy programme, a bag of maize will be sold to millers at Sh2,300, which translates to a retail price of Sh90 per 2kg packet.

According to the MPs, without documents justifying how the amount was arrived at, it would be difficult to tell if the subsidy was fair to the farmers and if millers deserved it.

"Who is being subsidised? What determines the subsidy amount? Is it the miller, importer or consumer? How does the subsidy trickle down to the consumer?" asked John Serut (Mt Elgon).

"Unless we put in place regulations to control the millers who control prices and create artificial shortages, we will not be able to deal with this problem," said Alfred Keter (Nandi Hills).

The CS and Principal Secretary Richard Lesiyampe, appeared before National Assembly Agriculture Committee.

They were to respond to concerns over food security in the country and the intervention measures taken by the Government to mitigate the situation.

Release stocks

Farmers who have been holding maize in the hope that prices will rise have been offered more money to encourage them to release their stocks.

But complicating the food politics is that businessmen have already imported 320,000 bags of maize into the market.

This came after the Government zero-rated the imports in a bid to bring down the cost of unga.

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