Trade Investment and Industrialisation Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria was Tuesday caught up in a storm of protest over plans by the government to allow importation of duty-free maize, including 10 million bags of genetically modified produce.
MPs from maize-growing areas held a press conference in Nairobi to condemn the move and threatened to set in motion a process to remove the CS from office should the plan be actualised.
Kuria, who had last week said the government would import the maize over six months to mitigate the food crisis, was Tuesday on the receiving end from legislators who said farmers will suffer a great deal from the declaration.
The leaders also faulted President William Ruto’s administration for allegedly failing to follow the law in its pronouncement on maize imports.
“We are aware that there are plans by the Ministry of Trade to import 10 million bags of duty-free maize, while this is the season of maize harvesting in major parts of the country. As MPs from maize growing regions we seek to know why ships are already docking at the port of Mombasa without the laid down legal procedures in place,” said Nandi County Senator Samson Cherargei.
He was reacting to reports that a ship with a consignment of imported maize had already docked at the port of Mombasa, devoid of gazettement on the same. The ship is said to have come from Mozambique carrying 10,000 tonnes of maize.
Pokot South MP David Pkosing warned that should the government continue with the plan to import the maize, legislators would begin collecting signatures to impeach Kuria.
“Any agency that will import the maize will be on its own. There must be public participation and gazette notice before importation. If Trade CS Moses Kuria continues with this, we will impeach him. He is not above the law and should respect farmers,” said Pkosing.
Should all else fail, the MPs vowed to obtain a court injunction to stop the planned importation of maize.
They also delved into GMOs debate urging the government to go slow and wait for formulation of laws to guide the process.
“We as Kenya Kwanza told farmers that we must give them minimum returns and that should be maintained. On GMO, the ministers for Agriculture and Trade should bring the matter back to Parliament for debate before any implementation,” said Aldai MP Marianne Kitany.
Leaders from Western also opposed importation of maize.
“We can confirm that the region has witnessed a bumper maize harvest in Trans Nzoia, Bungoma and Kakamega which has not been sold. The caucus has confirmed that the farmers will suffer irreparable damage if the government proceeds to import maize. Our people will lose their livelihood as well as their health,” read a statement by 22 MPs.
The MPs are Catherine Omayo (Busia), Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna, Maurice Kakai (Kiminini), Mary Emase (Teo South) , Nabwera Nabii (Lugari), John Waluke (Sirisia), John Makali (Kanduyi), Dick Oyugi (Luanda), Bishop Titus Khamala (Lurambi), Innocent Mugabi (Likuyani) and Malulu Injendi (Malava).
No Cabinet approval
Others include Majimbo Kalasinga (Kabuchai), Emmanuel Wangwe (Navakholo), Fred Ikana (Shinyalu) and Charles Gimose (Hamisi).
Cherargei reiterated that there was no Cabinet approval on importation of duty-free maize and the move would undermine the intention of guaranteed minimum returns to farmers.
The lawmakers projected that farmers will harvest an estimated 42 million bags of maize despite the high cost of farm inputs such as fertiliser at Sh7,000, the high cost of fuel and ploughing.
They now want the government to open the National Cereals Produce Board (NCPB) to mop up the maize before any importation is done.
“It seems there is a deliberate move to continue killing maize farming in the country as was seen in the previous regime where even the sugar sector and others were killed. It seems that cartels are now back in business and this time round, they appear more aggressive and ruthless,” said Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa.
Sabatia MP Clement Sloya demanded that the government halts the importation of maize until March next year when the country would have a clear understanding of what needs to be brought in.
“Importation of maize will demean the local farmer who forms part of the bottom-up economic model of our administration. The President should not overlook the plight of farmers and allow importation of maize which is more expensive,” remarked Sloya.
Moiben MP Phylis Bartoo called for not only stopping the importation but also sustenance of the current maize prices to ensure farmers get good returns.
“We are at a critical stage in harvesting and we want the current prices maintained at around Sh5,000. Can we pause and allow farmers to sell maize? If the ship is already docking in Mombasa, do you want to kill these farmers, where do you expect them to take all the maize?” posed Bartoo.