UNTIL AFTER HARVEST

North Rift governors want Kiunjuri to suspend maize import plan

In Summary

• Mandago says the importation should only be done if there is a shortage after the farmers complete harvesting in January

• The county bosses argue that state should support local farmers to produce more instead of imports

Governors Alex Tolgos of Elgeyo Marakwet, Uasin Gishu's Jackson Mandago and Trans Nzoia's Patrick Khaemba during a meeting in Eldoret on May 2
CUSHIONING FARMERS: Governors Alex Tolgos of Elgeyo Marakwet, Uasin Gishu's Jackson Mandago and Trans Nzoia's Patrick Khaemba during a meeting in Eldoret on May 2
Image: MATHEWS NDANYI

Governors in the North Rift have asked the government to suspend the planned importation of 19 million bags of maize until local farmers harvest their crop.

Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago on Monday said the importation should only be done if there is a shortage after the farmers complete harvesting in January. He is the chairman of the North Rift Economic Bloc (NOREB)

Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos, his Trans Nzoia counterpart Patrick Khaemba and Stephen Sang of Nandi said they did not support the plan to import maize because there was no shortage crisis.

“The government should protect local farmers and not allow costly imports,” Tolgos said.

Mandago said governors from maize growing areas talked to Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri and agreed that any importation at the moment would hurt farmers.

“We know from our counties that there is an expected bumper harvest this year and farmers still have last year’s stock, which they did not sell due to low prices,” he said.

Mandago spoke in Ainabkoi in his county. He said he was a member of a task force formed by President Uhuru Kenyatta to probe the maize problem, and they had made recommendations on how best the sector can be improved.

“Maize imports has been a major problem for our farmers, and we urge the government to wait until we clearly know if there will be shortages before any decision is made,” Mandago said.

Mandago and Ainabkoi MP William Chepkut urged the government to pay farmers who had been arrested over claims of being cartels involved in the National Cereals and Produce Board maize saga last year.

Most farmers were cleared by the EACC after investigations, but they are yet to be paid more than Sh230 million owed to them by the NCPB for the maize delivered last year.

The Uasin Gishu county boss faulted the government for branding the farmers "corrupt", yet they are genuine producers.

“Those who have stolen a lot of money in this country like that meant for dams and the NYS are still free, yet genuine farmers are being punished for nothing”, Mandago said.

He said the government should give money to the NCPB to clear debts, which it owes to the farmers.