Posted on September, 13, 2018 at 11:24 am
By IBRAHIM ORUKO
The Ministry of Agriculture has dismissed claims that a huge chunk of the funds allocated for the procurement of grain meant for the Strategic Food Reserve (SFR) was used to buy maize from Uganda and Tanzania.
The ministry further denied claims that the bigger portion of the maize procured by the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) was brought in from the two neighbouring countries.
“Claims that a large consignment of maize procured by the NCPB was imported from Uganda and Tanzania, are, at best, rumours. As a ministry, we did an audit and there was no evidence of importation of the grain from the two countries,” the Ministry’s Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS), Mr Kello Harsama, told a committee of the Senate on Wednesday. The Senate Select Committee is investigating the crisis facing the maize sub-sector.
The CAS made the revelation even as the committee was told that the government, under the maize subsidy programme and replenishment of the SFR in 2017, procured 10.5 million, 90kg bags of maize.
This was against the government’s approved quantity of 12.6 million bags. During last year’s harvest, the government offered Sh3,200 for a 90kg bag of maize.
This motivated both farmers and traders who opted to take their maize to NCPB.
However, the ministry was not able to absorb all the maize offered by the farmers, culminating in some malpractices that saw some unscrupulous traders use all means to sell their commodity to NCPB.
The CAS said investigations had established that it was the local traders who took advantage of the good prices offered by the state to buy from the farmers and sell to the NCPB.
The committee is probing the crisis reported in the procurement of maize and which has left genuine farmers still waiting to be paid Sh3.5 billion for deliveries made since last year. It is further trying to establish why traders were paid for the deliveries estimated to be Sh8 billion at the expense of the farmers.
“While a majority of the suppliers were traders, we have established that they bought the commodity from the genuine farmers and resold it to NCPB,” said Mr Harsama.
He added: “There are farmers who rightly or wrongly felt that NCPB always delays their payments. It takes 6 to 7 months to pay farmers after delivery. Farmers want quick money because of the many pressing problems that is why they sold to the traders nearly all their maize.”
The CAS had appeared before the committee alongside the Principal Secretary for Agriculture and Research Hamadi Boga, acting NCPB managing director Albin Sang and the Agricultural Finance Corporation (AFC) head of operations, Ms Millicent Omukaga.
His assertion was received with scepticism by the committee which reminded him of reports of a huge consignment of maize which had entered the country through the Suam border point in Trans Nzoia during the end of last year.
Both the Council of Governors (CoG) and the Agriculture CEC from Trans Nzoia have separately appeared before the committee and said the maize that NCPB procured was imported, prejudicing the interests of the local farmers.
Trans Nzoia Senator Michael Mbito questioned the assertion, accusing the CAS of diverting attention from the failures the government had visited upon the farmers, noting that it is the traders who had saved the situation for the poor farmers by buying the maize.
Source: Daily Nation