Maize farmers have 72 hours to sell their produce before a decision on the importation of the grain is approved by the Cabinet.
On Saturday, Trade and Industry Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria told farmers in the maize-growing zones of Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, Nandi and Bungoma, among other counties, to take advantage of the 72-hour ultimatum before a Tuesday Cabinet meeting okays the importation plan.
Mr Kuria said his ministry has been categorical on the planned importation of maize and assured Kenyans that all safety measures have been put in place in ensuring that quality of imported food meets the requisite health standards.
He warned that failure by farmers to sell their maize by Tuesday will necessitate the importation of more than 10 million bags, including GMO maize, to cure the acute shortage of the country’s staple food.
“I am not saying that you do not sell your maize. Some of you (farmers) have sold your produce, but let me tell those of you who are still holding your maize that you will be on your own. There will be those who will use the unsold maize to feed dogs,” Kuria said.
“By February next year, there will be a shortage of 15 million bags. So let us agree to sell the maize we are holding. Government will not buy a single grain of maize. Even the imported maize will be procured by traders.”
He said farmers should take advantage of better prices to release maize to traders before the imported grain floods the market.
“You have 72 hours to release the maize in your stores before the Cabinet on Tuesday approves the decision to import maize. This is because we don’t want anyone to die of hunger”, he said.
The CS’s remarks come days after MPs from the North Rift region comprising Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei, Pokot South MP David Pkosing and Julius Ruto (Kesses) among other leaders opposed the importation plan, arguing that it would hurt local farmers who were yet to sell their maize.
There have also been reports that farmers from maize-producing regions were hoarding millions of bags of maize as the harvesting season comes to an end.
Kuria was speaking during the funeral of journalist Evelyn Ogutu at Simwatet area in Kiminini constituency, Trans-Nzoia County yesterday.
Farmers have been selling a 90-kilogramme bag of maize at between Sh4,800 and Sh5,300 during the 2022 harvest season that started late in September, with most farmers withholding produce awaiting better prices.
Farmers say the current prices are the highest in the history of maize farming.
Saboti MP Caleb Amis weighed in on the GMO debate, asking Kuria to build the capacity of maize farmers in the country’s food basket (Trans Nzoia) instead of introducing the genetic organism crops. He said GMO crops will demotivate farmers.
He told the Trade CS to talk to President William Ruto and ask him to shelve the GMO food import plan.
“We don’t want to stress on this subject because the GMO project will make the current administration unpopular. Concentrate on Hustlers fund and other programmes because GMO will take you home early,” he said.
“We will welcome you to Trans Nzoia when you come with subsidized fertilizer and maize, but we will not do so when bringing to us GMO ideas.”
Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei it was wrong to import maize during the harvest season.