Maize task-force recommends privatisation of NCPB
Farmers' issuesThe session was one of a number of forums where farmers' issues have been laid bare, painting a picture of a sector in crisis. Last year, a Senate team that visited Uasin Gishu was taken aback after farmers, some in tears, narrated their experiences in the hands of cartels that have captured the sector and denied them the promise of a better life. They accused the Government of neglecting them even as they sweat it out in their farms to feed their families and pay school fees for their children. Key among their complaints is that well-connected businessmen have taken advantage of existing loopholes to deliver maize to the grain agency and walk away with millions at the expense of genuine farmers. The task-force was gazetted last year under instructions from President Uhuru Kenyatta to review under-performance in the maize industry. It was chaired by Mr Kiunjuri. The Government has been under pressure from stakeholders to release the report, whose recommendations, if implemented, could be key in unlocking current challenges. The proposal to privatise NCPB is designed to professionalise its operations, away from the current chaos in the agency. It could, however, attract criticism for its potential to create more opportunities for unscrupulous fat cats. To deal with cases of fake farmers, the team has recommend that each county develops a register of its farmers, culminating into development for an aggregate national register. It also wants the agency to be the sole importer of reserve maize and fertiliser in consultation with the Strategic Food Reserve Trust in a bid to stabilise prices. The task-force was to examine the policy, legal regulatory and institutional framework of the maize industry and make recommendations. It was also tasked to identify challenges and make proposals necessary to streamline the sector. Among the challenges identified are inadequate funding, political interference and corruption, which the committee noted had robbed farmers of the promise of a better life and reduced them to beggars.