Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi has asked Kenyans to eat rice as an alternative to ugali.
Appearing before the House Committee on Agriculture and Livestock the CS explained that the world is experiencing a shortage of maize making it difficult for the government to purchase the grain.
“We are trying to look for maize out there but the truth of the matter is that it is not there,” explained Linturi.
“Some of the countries we have approached do not want to share their maize with us because they are afraid of their food security. I, therefore, urge Kenyans to embrace rice, potatoes, and other food substitutes. We have already brought tonnes of rice and we are bringing more next week.”
He said the prices of maize and rice will come down in the next ten days.
The CS revealed that 1.4 million tonnes of maize and another 1.1 tonnes of rice are expected in the country in one week and three days in an effort to address the current food shortage.
The government will also bring in a further 500,000 tonnes of yellow maize for animal feed.
This is expected to plug the deficit of the produce and effectively bring down the cost of unga, which is retailing at Sh200.
"We have already issued permits to millers to import the said amounts of maize and rice. In the next ten days we shall have enough of the commodities to feed us in the near future,” said Mr Linturi.
The committee heard that the Ministry of Agriculture had imported 43,173 tonnes of rice and an additional 1,305 tonnes of maize and the anticipated imports of grain would bolster the country's food security in the short term.
“We have put in place adequate mechanisms to ensure the country has enough food. We expect when these commodities come into the market, prices will come down,” the CS said.
This means the ministry will ship in about 16 million 90kg bags of white maize, about 2.2 million 50kg bags of rice, and about 5.6 million 90kg bags of yellow maize.
The CS also implored local farmers to sell their maize reserves to the National Cereals and Produce Board to fortify the grain's availability and deal with the current drought.
"Ordinarily prices of food commodities depend on the supply and demand and that is why we are asking farmers to release the maize they are holding so that we can have enough. A week ago a 50kg bag of sugar was retailing at almost Sh7,200 now it's Sh5,500 since we allowed importation of additional into the country, we expect such changes in the next few days," noted Linturi.
He explained that some of the countries Kenya had engaged are reluctant to share their maize. Linturi emphasized that the farmers should sell the surplus from the previous year's harvest before the arrival of the duty-free maize, to save them from imminent heavy losses.
“In another ten days, we will have landed in this country with enough rice and maize. I ask you, members, to ask farmers to release any maize they are holding as prices will crush when this maize comes in," he said.
Maize flour politics and a surging cost of living are at the centre of the political duel pitting President William Ruto’s regime against the fired up Azimio.
On Monday, Azimio leader Raila Odinga led anti-government protests with one of their key demands being lowering the cost of living and specifically price of maize.
They took a swipe at the Kenya Kwanza regime noting that despite its decree to okay genetically modified maize into the country, the price of flour remained high.
But in a rejoinder, the government maintained that the price of flour had reduced from the previous Sh230 to Sh180 and that it has already instituted policies to eventually reduce the price of maize - such as an increment of the number of counties under the agriculture subsidy program to 17 as President Ruto plans to announce new prices for maize seeds.
Crop Development PS Kello Harsana, on Monday said farmers in Kisii, Homa Bay, Laikipia, Baringo, and Nyamira will access the subsidised fertiliser and maize seeds.