State will not import maize this year, says CS Wamalwa

Monday, August 19th, 2019 00:00 |
Maize farming. Photo/Courtesy

The government will not import maize despite the current gap in the national food reserves and high prices of flour, Devolution Cabinet secretary Eugene Wamalwa has said.

Instead, he said the government plans to mobilise internal resources to keep the country going until October, when the next harvest is expected.

Wamalwa, who is also in charge of arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs), said though many Kenyans face food insecurity due to the drought which followed failed long rains, the government is not in a hurry to sanction imports.

Internal resources

“We will not import any maize this year from Mexico or any other country. We will instead mobilise internal resources,” the CS said when he inaugurated the newly constituted National Drought Management Authority (NDMA)  board in Nairobi yesterday.

Wamalwa said even if the government was to import, the maize will be docked around the same time when farmers in the bread-basket areas will have harvested. What is required, he added, is proper coordination to ensure that food from the bread-basket regions reach the needy areas in good time.

He said traditional bread-basket of North Rift and Western Kenya will harvest their produce in the next few months hence there is no need to import maize either from Mexico or anywhere else.

Wamalwa’s remarks are contrary to stand taken by Ministry of Agriculture that more maize needs to be imported to supplement the local stocks.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri said in May that the country needs 12.5 million bags for human consumption and animal feeds.  

Unscrupulous traders

But Strategic Food Reserve Oversight Board (SFROB) disagreed, saying it is a ploy by unscrupulous traders and cartels to use the opportunity to grow their businesses.

The Cabinet is yet to sanction importation of maize even as millers and traders raise concern over depleted maize stock.

Prices of maize flour are still high at between Sh115 and Sh123 for a 2 kg packet in most local supermarkets while cost of a 90kg bag ranges from Sh3,500 to Sh4,000.

Wamalwa said Parliament has passed the NDMA Amendment Bill and the same assented to by President Uhuru Kenyatta to enable National Drought Emergency Fund (NDEF) to come into operation.

“NDEF which has a capitation of Sh2 billion will help finance resilience building projects across the drought-affected counties. These regions have been strategically mapped out,” he said.

He said the Cabinet had developed an action plan and set aside sufficient funds to purchase food, adding that relief food distribution will be scaled up in the affected regions.

“This week, the government plans to roll out the second round of relief interventions across affected counties,” he disclosed.

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