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Plan to import maize ill-advised, shelve it, Raila tells Kiunjuri

Says cartels will benefit at the expense of farmers

In Summary

• Kiunjuri and Wekesa have sharply clashed over the planned importation

• While CS wants to import the grains to mitigate the shortage, Wekesa says the alleged shortage is artificial 

ODM leader Raila Odinga.
ODM leader Raila Odinga.
Image: FILE

ODM leader Raila Odinga has waded into the emotive maize debate and urged Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri to shelve the plan to import the grains.

Kiunjuri has clashed with the Strategic Food Reserve Trust Fund Noah Wekesa on the planned importation of maize to mitigate the shortage.

CS said the government will import 12.5 million bags of maize to save the county from plunging into food crisis.

But Wekesa says there is enough stock in the silos and blasted Kiunjuri and the ministry for creating ‘artificial’ shortage to import the grains.

In a statement on Friday, Raila backed Wekesa and warned that importing maize  will only benefit cartels at the expense of local farmers.

“Mr Odinga strongly urges the Ministry of Agriculture to shelve its unrealistic plans to import 12.5 million bags of maize that will only distort the market,” reads the statement signed by Raila’s spokesman Dennis Onyango.

Raila warned that the country may be getting dragged into the routine of artificial, ministry-made grain shortages to allow importation by a cartel in and out of government at the expense of the consumers and farmers.

Wekesa on Thursday 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.

“Mr. Odinga, therefore, calls on the ministry to give the Strategic Food Reserve Fund the space to manage the evolving food security situation. He agrees with the fund that any deficits that arise after mopping up locally held maize be sourced from the neighbouring countries specifically from Uganda and Tanzania which will harvest their maize by August,” he said.

Raila slammed the ministry for 'routine' distortion of maize market pay the way for cartels to import the grains and called on the investigative agencies to probe the matter.

(Edited by P. Wanambisi)