The friction between the Council of Governors and the National Government was escalated on October 18 after COG took offence with the failure by National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri and National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) officials to show up at a crisis meeting to discuss the maize problem in the country.
The meeting was supposed to bring to the table stakeholders to discuss the plight of maize farmers who are contemplating abandoning the trade due to a number of issues including failure by NCPB to disburse their payments one year after delivery.
Crop Development Principal Secretary Richard Lesiyampe and several NCPB officials were on August 30 arraigned in court and charged with irregular purchase of maize worth Ksh 5.6 billion, which culminated into payment of well connected individuals while genuine farmers were left out.
As it stands, farmers are not able to deliver their maize to NCPB stores which may cause huge post-harvest losses and has as well exposed them to devious middlemen who exploit them by suppressing the prices below production cost.
In a statement to newsrooms, COG Chairman Josphat Nanok questioned the national government’s commitment to the Food Security pillar in Uhuru’s Big Four Agenda.
“Increased taxes and levies on agricultural inputs make our farmers uncompetitive to produce maize. We urge the Government to look into a strategy to lower the cost of production,” read the statement.
COG is now proposing that the national government puts in place a raft of measures to protect the farmers.
• Ministry of Agriculture to act with speed to open the 2.7 million NCPB depots to save farmers from the agony of post-harvest losses/unscrupulous traders.
• Ministry of Agriculture to partner with county governments and use stores built by counties as collection centers.
• Revision of the maize redistribution strategy. COG also proposes moving of grains from surplus to deficit regions should be fast-tracked.
• NCPB and the Ministry to come up with a strategy to ensure that the maize in the store is sold to create space for the new crop.
• The National Government to urgently set aside funds to repair all grain dryers which it claims are in bad condition and further come up with a strategy to enhance grain storage capacity to last the Country for 3 to 4 years.
• Mandatory and immediate roll out of the national farmer registration exercise to identify genuine farmers.
This is not the first time Governor Nanok is at loggerheads with State officials after the COG chairman on October 11 blasted the national government for what he termed as an “attempt” to micromanage counties shortly after the State started implementing austerity measures which included clamping down on unnecessary spending on foreign travel by County Executive Committee Members (CECs) and Members of County Assembly (MCAs).
The Maize crisis in the country has taken a political angle in the recent past.
A tough talking President Uhuru Kenyatta during the Agricultural Society of Kenya (ASK) on October 5 at Jamhuri grounds, Nairobi did not mince his words while warning CS Kiunjuri and NCPB against paying unscrupulous traders at the expense of the farmers.
“Money to pay the farmers was in our budget this year. We know what you did. You try that again and you will see what will happen to you, President Kenyatta said.
On October 4, a section of Rift Valley MPs led by Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter said they would be staging demos over the dues to farmers.