• President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration disbanded the strategic reserve in 2019 amid turf wars between the stock team and the NCPB.
• The Strategic Food Reserve had accumulated up to Sh10 billion from a capital base of Sh2.2 billion at the time it was folded up.
Stung by heightened pressure to reduce the price of unga, President William Ruto’s administration has set wheels in motion to revamp the Strategic Food Reserve.
This would see a return of the National Cereals and Produce Board at the centre of the management of food stocks.
President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration disbanded the strategic reserve in 2019 amid turf wars between the stock team and the NCPB.
The dissolution was first proposed by then Agriculture CS Peter Munya citing duplication of roles which were being carried out by the NCPB.
The Strategic Food Reserve had accumulated up to Sh10 billion from a capital base of Sh2.2 billion at the time it was folded up.
SFR and NCPB were engaged in a bitter war in which the NCPB claimed it was owed millions of shillings for buying and storing strategic maize.
At the height of the fights, farmers in Western, Narok, Bomet, Kericho, Nakuru, Nyanza, Bungoma, Nandi, Trans Nzoia and other maize-growing areas had nowhere to take their maize.
In what could be a reprieve for farmers who have been having trouble with where to sell their produce, the Kenya Kwanza administration seeks to return the NCPB to the centre.
New regulations proposed by Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi seek to provide that the government would maintain at least 90,000 metric tonnes of food at any time.
The reserve would be to cushion the country during times of extreme shortages and is envisioned to meet at least three months’ national food requirement.
“The quantity of base stock shall be the greater of ninety thousand (90,000) metric tonnes; or three-month national food requirement of, scheduled agricultural produce,” the regulations read.
The stocks, according to the National Cereals and Produce Board (National Strategic Reserve) Regulations, 2023, would be monitored by a Food Balance Sheet committee.
The food balance sheet team, as per the regulations, would be a committee of the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB).
Its membership includes a chairperson with a degree from a university recognised in Kenya and at least 10 years of experience in matters related to food security.
Other members include the Crop Development PS, Livestock PS, Fisheries PS, chairperson of the Council of Governors or a person named by the council.
Also proposed as part of the team are the chairperson board of directors of the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, Trade PS, PS in charge of the meteorological services, chairperson of the board of directors of Agriculture Sector Network, and NCPB managing director as secretary to the committee.
The regulations provide that the reserve shall consist of either the agricultural produce or the monetary equivalent of the set base stock.
There would also be in the proposed reserve, stock that has been subjected to price stabilisation, while the base stock would be held in the form of warehouse receipts.
“The quantity of the stock shall be determined by the food balance sheet committee based on the prevailing market demand and supply conditions as communicated by NCPB,” the regulations read.
“The quantity of the three-month national food requirement of scheduled agricultural produce in regulation shall be calculated based on maize consumption equivalent, and determined by the conduct of price stabilisation.”
As per the regulations, the maize consumption equivalent shall be the financial value of food commodities which is equated to the financial value of maize.
The committee would be tasked with advising on the quantities to be stocked in the reserve, and advise the board on supply, utilisation, distribution and intervention measures to improve the availability and affordability of food stocks.
The team would also be tasked with maintaining a digital balance sheet as well as collecting data and undertaking market intelligence and price monitoring.
The food balance sheet committee would also advise the board on price stabilisation, factoring in consumer purchasing power, cost of production of a particular crop, and internal price fluctuations.
In determining the price, the committee would be required to check on seasonal price movements, changes in exchange rates, and market forces.
“The board shall notify the committee when the physical stock of the reserve reduces to the level of base stock, and advise on replenishment of the reserve,” the new rules read.