Tough questions as CS Mithika Linturi claims fertiliser is good

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi. [Bonbiface Okendo, Standard]

Barely days after the Kenya Bureau of Standards suspended eight employees over the issuance of certification and marks of quality to two companies linked to the sub-standard fertiliser and Kels Chemicals Company’s licence having been suspended, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi is sticking to his guns there is no fake fertiliser.

Many farmers across the country have however narrated a different story saying whatever they were supplied with was not fertiliser. Linturi, on Monday, denied the existence of fake fertiliser saying there has been reported a case of 3,000 bags of substandard fertilisers in the market and that the ministry was ready to compensate affected farmers.

He went further to tell the National Assembly Agriculture Committee that what was distributed was soil conditioner and that the government had no hand in the supply.

“I would like to inform this committee that the ministry is not involved in the distribution of fake fertiliser, I would request the investigation agencies to take action against those involved in the distribution of the soil conditioner that has raised eyebrows among farmers,” said Linturi when he appeared before the MPs.

Linturi told the committee chaired Tigania West MP John Mutunga at parliament buildings that he cannot rule out the hand of maize importers in the multibillion fake fertiliser scandal which has left the government with an egg on the face.

Farmers, through the Kenya Farmers Association, have pushed back saying the government ought to take responsibility for the scandal and act on those who were involved.

“Government should take responsibility and go for them instead of taking farmers in circles,” Kipkorir Menjo said.

The Cabinet Secretary downplayed the expose by Africa Uncensored journalist John-Allan Namu on fake fertiliser saying the government suspended distribution of the soil conditioner by SBL Innovate using National Cereals and Produce Board in March this year.

Farm inputs

Linturi said NCPB engages in business partnerships with interested parties that provide farm inputs and other supplies on an agency basis in food production and associated value chains in an effort to boost food security terming it as the reason it worked with SBL Innovate.

“Through this arrangement, National Cereals and Produce Board has partnered with organizations that supply products like fertilisers, lime, bio fertilisers and certified seeds, this is in line with NCPB’s mandate on food security,” said Linturi.

Namu who was the first witness to appear before Senate Agriculture Committee last week revealed that some influential politicians reached out to him in an attempt to convince him not to air his expose on the fake fertiliser scandal.

Namu told the committee his organization carried out a detailed investigation on public procurement since 2018, and that the fake fertiliser scandal cuts across the Jubilee administration and the current one and that action needs to be taken against those found culpable.

Arrests

The Cabinet Secretary and his Trade Counterpart Rebecca Miano and senior officials of the National Cereals and Produce Board, National Environment Management Authority and Kenya Bureau Standards will appear before the Senate Agriculture Committee on Thursday.

Over the weekend police in Bungoma arrested traders subdividing 120 bags of what they suspected to be adulterated fertiliser and said the suspect will be charged once the test on the fertiliser are completed. 

Detectives in Nakuru County two weeks ago seized 560 bags of suspected fake fertiliser worth Sh1.4 million intended for delivery to Molo National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) stores as other sleuths seized 700 bags of suspected fake fertiliser in Kakamega two weeks ago.

The National Cereals Produce Board had sampled the product in question in over 59 stores across the country which led to the suspension of the product permits amid fears that the product may still be in circulation.

Kenya Bureau of Standards CEO Esther Ngari told Parliament two weeks ago after launching that after a probe following a tip-off from the public they managed to seize 5,840 bags of fake fertiliser.

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