Mithika Linturi: Tax waiver on maize, rice, sugar imports to lower cost of living

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi when he appeared before the National Assembly Agriculture Committee on the issue of subsidies on June 21, 2023. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi has said that to address the high cost of living the government issued tax waivers on importation of 1.4 million metric tonnes of maize, 1.1 million metric tonnes of rice and 280,000 metric tonnes of sugar.

Mr Linturi who appeared before the Senate plenary to answer questions by senators today noted that as per June 16, 68 companies had imported 520,426 metric tonnes of white milled rice while 13 companies had imported 234,981 metric tonnes of white maize.

The CS told the House that the Agriculture Ministry officials held a meeting with pre-qualified importers of maize and rice on April 25 to review and get an update on the status of importation of the commodities where they raised challenges they were facing.

"The challenges faced by importers during importation process included appreciation of the dollar against Kenya shilling, high international prices and off taker guarantees required by banks to issue letters of credit," he said.

He told the Senate that it was resolved during the meeting that importers, who were unable to provide evidence of importation process such as bills of landing, surrender their import allocation and their permits were to be terminated.

Linturi noted that the country recorded the lowest maize production in 10 years estimated at 34.4 million bags against a national consumption requirement of 50 million bags due to drought.

He said that based on the food situation early warning reports, the ministry recommended importation of various food commodities to bridge the food deficit and stabilize high prices with a public notice issued on December 14, 2022 inviting eligible millers and traders to make submissions.

"A total of 461 applications were received out of which 186 did not meet the criteria for prequalification with 275 applicants being responsive and were given opportunity to participate in the importation of food commodities with allocation letters issued to 129 companies to import rice and 127 companies to import maize," said Linturi.

The CS told the Senate said that the ministry is sensitizing farmers to increase food production with several incentives in place to support them bearing in mind that the country in the last four years has not been producing sufficient food.

Linturi said that the ministry is working towards lowering the prices of maize and beans and ensure food security in the country.

He told the House that there are 650,000 small scale tea farmers in the country and the government is committed to improve the sector and resolve the crisis caused over tea plucking machines.

"We need to appreciate that mechanization of agriculture is the way to go with Ministry of Agriculture promoting it, however we have to implement the processes gradually with people prepared to accept them," said Linturi.

The CS assured the House that the ministry will however not allow any measures that will impoverish farmers even as they approve modernization in the agricultural sector.

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