Kiunjuri lifts cap on maize deliveries, leaves consumers to market forces

Trucks and tractors queue to deliver maize at the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) Eldoret Depot. [Kevin Tunoi/Standard]
Farmers can now deliver as much maize as they can to the Government, after a cap limiting them to delivering not more than 400 bags was removed yesterday.

The restriction that was removed by Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri hopes to put food prices in check.

Buying prices will, however, not be immediately reviewed as demanded by farmers.

The new measure effectively leaves consumers to market forces, and at the mercy of millers who are already raising the prices of Unga citing diminishing maize stocks.

“I have directed the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCBP) to accept maize deliveries from vetted farmers with more than 400 bags that had earlier been set,” said Mr Kiunjuri.

“I further direct NCPB to lift the previously set county supply limits to allow free delivery of surplus maize from all vetted farmers.”

Opening up reserves to all farmers is expected to allow counties with surplus maize to deliver their produce to NCPB stores in areas with shortages.

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Kiunjuri acknowledged that the famine in some parts of the country was purely a logistical problem rather than a food crisis.

He said a food analysis, conducted by State officials, indicated that there were 21.4 million bags of maize in the country, which were enough to cover the next five months.

A fifth of the available stocks are held at NCPB stores, which the State has raided to provide food aid to the millions currently facing starvation.

Millers are holding a paltry three per cent, meaning they will actively be in the market to source for the commodity.

Should the millers offer better prices than the Sh2,300 which NCPB is buying at, then a spike in Unga prices will be inevitable.

Findings presented by the World Bank earlier in the week pointed to the fact that poor policies have left the country with no option but to import food from its relatively poorer neighbours.

Among the policies identified are the skewed distribution of subsidised fertiliser, which has only helped breed corruption rather than achieve the objective of lowering production costs.

Timothy Njagi Njeru, a research fellow at the Tegemeo Institute of the Egerton University, has also criticised the kneejerk reactions from the State in fighting starvation.

He said it would be more effective to give hunger-stricken families cash to enable them purchase in a free market rather than the Government sending truckloads to affected areas.

“The Government could start a virtuous cycle by providing cash transfers to affected citizens, enabling them to buy food. This in turn will lead to farmers selling to suppliers delivering food in famine hit areas,” said Mr Njeru.

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Agriculture CS Mwangi KiunjuriUnga PricesNCBP