• SFR says the country only needs to import two million bags of maize and not the 12.5 million bags the ministry has recommended.
• CS says the statement on maize importation by Wekesa on Thursday was reckless and amounted to insubordination.
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri yesterday warned the Strategic Food Reserve board chairman Noah Wekesa against making statements on planned maize imports.
Kiunjuri said that only the ministry is mandated to comment on maize imports.
He said Wekesa's claims on Thursday that the country needed to import only two million bags of maize were reckless and amounted to insubordination.
The CS had on Wednesday said the country would import 19 million bags to plug its deficit.
He accused Wekesa of feeding the press with information contradictory to the ministry which is the only custodian of the food situation in the country.
“Any other body that would like to issue a statement on maize imports cannot do that because the ministry has the final say. Any other organisation has to get information from the ministry,” Kiunjuri said
Kiunjuri chided Wekesa for his actions.
“He has no courtesy for the PS and the CS and has shown no respect for the last two weeks. Nobody has the authority on the food situation in the country except the ministry,” he said.
The CS wondered whether there was somebody behind the SFR chair.
“I do not know where he is mustering the courage to attack the ministry. Wekesa can only talk after getting the right information form the ministry. If he wants to play politics, so can we,” Kiunjuri said.
The CS's comments come after leaders from North Rift and the SFR board held a press conference in Nairobi yesterday and dismissed claims of a maize shortage in the country.
The leaders led by Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny and Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos told the ministry of agriculture not to import maize.
Wekesa said that there are 760,000 bags of maize yet to be sold to the millers after selling 1.24 million bags from the 1.7 million bags they put on sale in May.
He also said that there was no need to import more maize since they were expecting a good harvest in two months from Bomet and Western regions.
“Sometime in September, we are going to start receiving maize from the farmers in western regions and Bomet," Wekesa said.
He explained that the delay was due to late rains season but the farmers had used good fertilisers and the maize in the farm were looking good.
He also added that from visits in Machakos, Kirinyaga, and Bungoma, they had discovered that millers have some maize.
Large scale millers had been holding maize in stores hoping that the prices will go up so that they could start selling.
Wekesa blamed the 'cartels' saying that they were only interested in lining their pockets without considering the farmers.
“We only need to import two million bags in August in case of emergency but the government should handle the importation in order to avoid over-importation like last year," Wekesa said.
Tolgos confirmed farmers were expecting to harvest as from September and urged the government to consider their investment.
“Unlike other years before, farmers used good fertilizers, therefore, we are expecting a bumper harvest,” he said.
Tolgos asked the President to ensure that the farmers were not being stepped on by the greedy individuals who are only interested in making themselves rich.
SFR is scheduled to meet with President Uhuru Kenyatta next week over the maize issue in the country.
(edited by O. Owino)