The National Cereals and Produce Board management in Kisumu has been put on the spot over negligence that has seen more than 15,000 tonnes of maize go to waste.
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri, who visited the depot, said he was concerned that although the stores had the capacity to hold 45,000 tonnes of cereals, they were operating at below 60 per cent, with the remaining space being leased out to private businesses.
There have been reports that the depot has no space to stock maize for the coming harvesting, and that the management was considering moving some bags to other stores in order to create space.
Mr Kiunjuri said the depot management had stocked only 590,000 bags of maize in the last season, although the stores had the capacity to hold 900,000 bags.
“How do you claim that you have no space, and that you want to transfer maize to other stores, yet you have leased space to private businesses? I think something must have been wrong in decision-making here,” he said.
He ordered the management to cancel all such leases.
“There is some housekeeping issues that I do not want to disclose at this time, but for sure we will look into this issue,” he said.
Kiunjuri also expressed displeasure at the explanations given by the management why about 60 per cent of the maize in the stores was discoloured, hence at risk of going to waste.
According to Kiunjuri, the depot management had told him that one of the main causes of the discolouration was poor circulation in the stores. This, he said, was due the poor design of the stores. He added that they needed to be renovated and aeration machines installed to improve circulation.
The CS said he did not find the explanation convincing.
The CS was accompanied by a team of experts from the Public Health Department, the Kenya Bureau of Standards, and other Government agencies.
The CS said they would all compile a report on the state of the maize in the stores, as well as the role of NCPB officers in handling the produce.
Kiunjuri said the report, which was set to come out in the next one week, would inform the action to be taken against those found culpable for the mess at the depot.
“At this level I do not want to point a finger at anybody, but the team will come up with a comprehensive report that will answer all the emerging questions in relation to the operations of the NCPB.”
In Trans Nzoia, Kiunjuri ordered business people using Government grain storage facilities in Kitale to vacate.
He directed NCPB officials to ensure the stores were emptied and farmers given priority to use the facilities.
The Standard learnt that most of the stores were stocked with maize belonging to business people. Some of the cereal was acquired from Uganda.
Kiunjuri was confronted by farmers over poor producer prices and delayed payment for last season’s deliveries.
Benson Kidelu, who spoke on behalf of the farmers, accused the Government of allowing middlemen to exploit them by buying the crop at throwaway prices.
“We feel neglected by the Government. We are unhappy with the delay to pay us for the maize we delivered to the board,” Mr Kidelu lamented.
Kidelu, who is among those on the list of farmers being investigated, denied being part of a cartel and handed documents to Kiunjuri to prove his innocence.
“I’m ready to go to jail. I have documents to prove that the maize I delivered to the board was from my land and leased portions,” he said.