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Fake fertiliser: MPs summon Linturi, PS

Agriculture CS Mithika Linturi  (centre) inspects the first batch of 70,000 bags at the National Cereals Produce Board depot in Nakuru County on January 31, 2024. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Members of Parliament have joined their Senate colleagues in investigating how fake fertiliser was distributed to National Cereals and Produce Board depots and then supplied to unsuspecting farmers.

Yesterday, the National Assembly Departmental Committee on Agriculture summoned Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi and his Principal Secretary Paul Rono to appear before it on Monday to shed more light on the fertiliser subsidy program amid an outcry by farmers.

On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Agriculture listened to journalist Allan Namu over the issue. Committee chairman Kirinyaga Senator James Murango said CS Linturi and the chief executive officers of Kenya Bureau of Standards and Kenya National Trading Corporation would appear before it.

Namu told the Senate committee that powerful politicians reached out to him to have an investigative story on the fake fertiliser scandal dropped. “I would like to inform this committee that politicians across the political divide might have been involved in this fake fertiliser conspiracy, some even reached out to me seeking to have African Uncensored not to air this story where the majority of those affected are small-scale farmers,” said Namu.

Yesterday, the National Assembly committee said it will also summon the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) Managing Director Theophilus Mutui, and NCPB Managing Director Joseph Kimote.

“The fundamental question this committee wants answered is how exactly did this fertiliser make it to the NCPB stores if indeed the officials there knew it was fake,” said committee vice chairman Brighton Yegon.

“Farmers who experienced losses as a result of using the fake fertiliser must be compensated and the fraudulent vendors held capable,” he added.

He said the parties were expected before the committee last month. However, due to what the committee was made to understand were prior official engagements, all other parties were unavailable for the meeting, except the Kebs boss.

“The committee will also meet SBL Innovate Manufacturers Limited, the manufacturers of GPC Plus Organic Fertiliser on Tuesday,” added Yegon.

Speaking during a press conference in Parliament, the House team members also revealed that they would visit various NCPB depots across the country and engage farmers on availability, fairness in distribution, price and quality of the fertiliser sold to them.

After the scheduled meetings and field visits, the Committee will prepare a report on its findings for consideration by the House.

Farmers in Mugamba Ciura village, Murinduko in Kirinyaga angered after buying goat compost manure mixed with sand from NCPB depot in Embu disguised as subsidized fertiliser. [Jane Mugambi, Standard]

“It is important for the public to note that the committee does not take this matter lightly, especially given its potential impact on the government’s plans towards making the country food secure,” said Yegon.

Matayos MP Geoffrey Odanga took issue with Linturi’s remarks that there was no fake fertiliser in the market and termed his actions insensitive to the plight of farmers.

“We are aware that there is a group of people out to sabotage the country’s food security and they are relying on or using such fertiliser to make sure that once there is food scarcity, they will make money by importing it,” said Odanga.

He also accused the government of double speak when it came to the fertiliser subsidy programme. “The government claims there is a lot of fertiliser in the market yet they know there is an acute shortage of the product. When the CS appears before us, he will tell us what plans are in place to rescue farmers,” he added.

Linturi had earlier refuted claims of fake fertiliser being sold to farmers and accused unknown people of trying to malign the subsidy programme. “Our farmers should desist from physical observation of fertiliser and making assumptions of its quality; those individuals doubting the quality of the fertiliser should avail it to laboratories,” he stated.

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