19m bags maize deficit requires import — Kiunjuri

CS says Kenya has always had deficit, prices remain high because of the shortfall

In Summary

• Out of the 19 million bags, 12 million are for human consumption and the remaining for animal feed. 

• State plans to increase large-scale farms from two per cent to at least 20 per cent for food security. 

CS Mwangi Kiunjuri
CS Mwangi Kiunjuri
Image: FILE

Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri has defended plans to import maize ahead of the harvesting season, calling opponents naive.

Kiunjuri told the Intergovernmental Agriculture Forum in Mombasa on Wednesday that although there is no gazette notice sanctioning imminent importation, the country has always had a deficit.

"Those opposed to the importation are only doing so for expediency but the fact is that year in year out, we have always had a deficit of 19 million bags including next year," the CS said.

Out of the 19 million bags, he said, 12 million are meant for human consumption while the remaining seven million are for animal feed.

He said maize yields have always been insufficient, hence, the need to source for additional maize from neighbouring countries.

"Climate change is real and it has affected production even from the once dependable regions," Kiunjuri said.

He was visibly annoyed by  Murang'a Governor Mwangi Wa Iria, who criticised the planned importation. Wa Iria proposed, instead, that the government increases support to farmers through county governments.

Kiunjuri said, "If you say we have enough maize, why has the price of unga been going up in the past three months? This is why it is critical to stabilise maize prices because if millers get maize at higher prices, the price of unga will also raise." 

Wa Iria, who spoke on behalf of Council of Governors chairman Wycliffe Oparanya at the forum, said the national government had failed to support counties. He said it was instead competing with countless in "distribution of seedlings and digging water pans and boreholes". 

The governor urged development partners to fund the national government through conditional grants tied to specific counties to "stop the state's competition for devolved projects."

The CS defended the distribution of the seedlings, saying it was not funded by donors but was a community responsibility programme funded by parastatals in the ministry.

Stakeholders at the forum released a  blueprint called "The  Agricultural Sector Transformation and Growth Strategy'. Kiunjuri and Oparanya both praised it as a game changer in enhancing food security. 

State Department of Agricultural Research PS Prof Hamadi Boga said the strategy has nine pillars that will, among other things, increase the incomes of small-scale farmers, pastoralists and fisherfolk by organising them into SMEs. The grouping will make it easier for them to access inputs and equipment.

Boga also said the government wants to increase the number of large-scale farms (2,500 acres) to improve production and create jobs.

"Currently, the country has 98 per cent small-scale farmers contributing to 70 per cent of our yields and two per cent large-scale farmers contributing 30 per cent," he said.

The aim is to have at least 20 per cent large scale farmers.

The two-day forum brought together officials from both Agriculture and Devolution ministries and county governments led by governors and CECs as well as development partners in agriculture and rural development.

Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa was represented by his CAS Hassan Dado. Attending governors included Martin Wambora (Embu), Lee Kinyanjui (Nakuru), Patrick Khaemba (Trans Nzoia), Ferdinand Waititu (Kiambu) and Mutahi Kahiga (Nyeri). 

Edited by R.Wamochie