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We'll not import maize to fight famine, says DP William Ruto

By Benard Sanga | February 7th 2017
Deputy President William Ruto speaks in Mombasa during his tour of the Coast region. (Photo: Maarufu Mohamed/Standard)

Plans to import duty-free maize to stock up the strategic grain reserve has been shelved, Deputy President William Ruto has said.

Speaking in Mombasa County Monday, Ruto said food aid to be distributed to affected families will be sourced locally, despite reports that some farmers have hoarded their farm produce for speculative purposes.

Prolonged drought in many parts of the country has caused food scarcity and complicated the country’s food security.

Kenyans consume an estimated four million bags of maize every month, according to Government statistics.

The DP declared that there were enough food stocks in the country and that no one will starve despite hunger currently ravaging several parts of the country.

Cooking oil

He said already, assorted food items such as maize, beans and cooking oil had started to arrive in areas worst hit by drought and famine in the Coast region.

“All the food that will be distributed has been sourced locally. Reports that the Government has imported maize are untrue,” said Ruto.

Last month, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett hinted that the decision to import maize was still on the table, adding that the number of Kenyans affected by famine had risen to 1.5 million.

He said the number of people in need of relief food would increase to 2 million, adding that the Government planned to stock up its strategic grain reserves.

The CS said the Government had set aside enough money to buy 1.4 million bags of maize from farmers to boost its reserves but the efforts have been frustrated by hoarding.

Reports indicate the farmers are demanding Sh3,000 for a 90kg bag of maize against the Sh2,300 being offered by the State.

Stock up

Maize prices were expected to rise from the current Sh3,100 to Sh3,400, which is the price a 90kg bag is currently going for in Uganda.

The Government has also begun to engage maize millers to lobby them against increasing maize flour prices as it decides on how to stock up the reserve.

Ruto said that already, Sh1.6 billion has been spent on buying food from local suppliers, which will be distributed starting next month.

The drought and famine has particularly ravaged arid and semi-arid areas with the worst hit areas being Kilifi, Tana River, Marsabit, Mandera, Samburu, Isiolo, Garrisa, Kitui, Wajir and Taita Taveta counties.

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