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Senate team says State insensitive to farmers’ plight

By Antony Gitonga | November 25th 2018
Members of the Senate ad hoc committee on maize crisis led by Bungoma Senator address the press in Naivasha over the new prices of Sh2,300 released by the government. The committee has rejected the prices adding that farmers should be paid over Sh3,000 per bag of maize.

The Senate ad hoc committee set up to iron out issues surrounding the maize crisis has rejected the Sh2,300 maize price approved by Cabinet.

The committee termed the new rates as an abuse to farmers who had invested millions of shillings to feed the nation.

The committee, meeting in Enashipai Spa in Naivasha to work on their report, said the price of maize should be more than Sh3,000 per bag.

Addressing the Press, Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula said the country’s food security was under threat due to oppression of farmers by the State.

He said the committee supported the push by farmers in North Rift demanding Sh3,600 per bag of maize.

“This committee rejects the Sh2,300 price of maize that was approved by the Cabinet since this is demeaning to hard working farmers,” he said.

Wetang’ula, who was accompanied by members of the committee, said the price of farm inputs had shot up leading to the rise in cost of production.

He said the report which will be tabled in Senate next week was proposing that the farmers earn over Sh3,000 per bag.

Inflation has shot up

“The government recently slapped a 16 per cent tax on chemicals and fuel and this has seen farm inputs rise and thus the Sh2,300 cannot meet the cost of production,” he said.

The Bungoma senator accused the government of being insensitive to farmers’ needs by introducing policies that have grossly affected production.

“Instead of the government giving subsidies to farmers, its paying them poorly thus killing their morale leading to crisis in food production,” he said.

Chair of the committee Margaret Kamar said the Cabinet approved Sh3,200 as maize producer price last year.

“From last year, the cost of living and inflation have shot up. Instead of the government increasing the price of maize, it’s reducing it. This does not make sense,” she said.

She wondered which criteria the government had used to arrive at the current prices.

“We are asking the government to rethink its decision since no farmer will in future risk his money to produce maize only to end up making losses,” she said.

According to her, the Maputo Declaration had directed that government allocates 10 per cent of its GDP to agriculture adding that in Kenya, the figures stood at four percent.

“We are calling on the President to intervene and reconsider this decision as the strategic food reserve is in danger due to the continued oppression of the farmers. On Wednesday, the Cabinet approved the purchase of two million bags of maize from local farmers at a price of Sh2,300 per bag. The meeting was chaired by President Uhuru Kenyatta and attended by his deputy William Ruto. The meeting approved proposals by the Ministry of Agriculture to purchase the maize as part of the ongoing efforts by the government to support local farmers.

Three MPs from North Rift last week accused the DP and his allies of being behind the woes facing maize farmers.

MPs Joshua Kutuny, Alfred Keter and Silas Tiren called for investigations.  

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