This year has seen the Ministry of Agriculture attempt to deal with the rot in the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) and ‘cartels’ that have swindled farmers of their deserved profits.
It is interesting to note that a century ago, the situation was quite the same although there were different villains at play.
On December 7, 1918, the East African Standard recorded that there had been a devastating situation in Ruiru Township, a reserve where farmers grew maize.
There had been a continuous wholesale export of maize at the reserves despite reports that there was insufficient maize to carry on to the next cash crop.
The committee of farmers had assessed the situation and come to the conclusion that the Indian community was behind the illegal export. Large quantities of maize were seen being readied for export on a daily basis on the way to the Ruiru station owned by Indian firms.
“It seems that the Indian community is back at its games of trying to bring about a shortage of maize in the country,” read the report presented at the Ruiru township meeting.
The chiefs had been earlier ‘advised’ not to sell maize from the reserves. However, the report fails to clearly state who had ordered them not to.
Unfortunately, the policy was not effected all round as in a different district in the same province, a totally opposite policy had been adopted.
This was reported as meddling from the Indian community who sought to make profits from introducing a shortage, something that the report suggested they had tried before.
A sub-committee was formed to deal with the matter and find a possible solution.?
In 2009, it was reported that imported maize was illegally being sold to ‘ghost millers’. The cartels involved in the 2009 scandal had bought maize from NCPB. Though it is not illegal to buy maize from NCPB, the sale of maize is usually restricted during times of famine.
The scam resurfaced in 2017 where there was an artificial shortage of maize that was created to pave way for the importation of maize from Mexico.
This year, the scam involved NCPB top officials and traders who cheaply imported maize from Uganda and Tanzania. The maize was delivered to NCPB depots in Western Kenya while local farmers were being turned down at depots.
The 1.9 billion maize scandal has seen NCPB officials arrested.