State must put its act together and come up with solution to maize crisis

The maize politics is here with us again. And as the Swahili would put it, in a vicious fight of two horses, it is the grass upon which they trod that gets hurt. As State officials bicker amongst themselves as to whether or not the country should import maize, millions of poor farmers and consumers continue to hurt. It is not a secret that the price of maize flour - critical for preparation of ugali, a staple dish in most Kenyan households - has skyrocketed.

There are those who have argued the depressed supply of the cereal which has resulted in the jump in price, is artificial having been orchestrated by farmers hoarding their harvest anticipating better prices.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri who recently kicked up storm when he claimed that if the Cabinet does not approve importation of maize the price of a two-kg maize will rally up to Sh150, seems convinced that the only way to break the deadlock is by rattling local producers with a supply of maize from overseas.

Strategic Food Reserve Trust Fund chairperson Noah Wekesa said the shortage was exaggerated to justify the importation. Kiunjuri has said the country needs to import about 12.5 million tonnes of maize. Wekesa feels should such quantities of maize get into the country it will mess up farmers whose produce will by then be getting into the market. While this appears ideal to stabilise the price and supply of the maize flour, the timing might not be right.

This explains why the Cabinet is reluctant to give a nod to the importation of maize. Perhaps, the Government’s biggest undoing in the current maize crisis has been its indecision.

Immediately, the Government noticed that farmers and traders were playing games, it should have made necessary arrangements to import maize that was in short supply.

Another opportunity to break this deadlock presented itself when it became clear that production this year would decline following poor weather. Once again, the Government never took decisive action.

As the shortage continues to bite, millers are crossing the border to Uganda and Tanzania for the cereal. We hope the Government will put its act together and come up with an amicable solution that will benefit both consumers of the staple food and the farmers. ?