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Govt suspends wheat importation

NAIROBI, July 21- The government Monday said it would suspend the importation of wheat until farmers have sold out all the produce in their possession.

Agriculture Minister William Ruto said the resolution was arrived at following a meeting with wheat farmers last week and aims to protect them from an influx of the commodity.

In June, the government scaled-down the duty on wheat imports from the current 35 percent to 10 percent in a bid to address the food shortage in the country.

Local small-scale farmers have however been up in arms over the move, which they argued, would result in a glut of wheat supplies from neighbouring countries, where duty is lower.

He also said the government through National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) would beginning next year buy wheat from the farmers at a fixed price in a bid to stabilise the price of the commodity.

At the same time, Ruto said the government would spend Sh70.5 million to distribute neglected crop seeds to various parts of the country before the end of October.

These, he explained, were crops, whose production had declined over the years for reasons ranging from inadequate availability of planting materials, low interest by seed companies to multiply the seeds due to low demand, a change in eating habits and limited knowledge about production.
He said through the distribution of seeds, which includes cassava, sweet potatoes and sorghum, the government hopes to produce 24,000 tonnes of seeds that would help double food production in the country.

“By the end of October, about four million clean cassava cuttings and 4.5 million vines will have to be distributed through out the country,” he assured.

Speaking when he flagged of 57 tonne-consignments of seeds worth Sh9.5 million that was destined for Western Kenya, Ruto said through the project dubbed the “Orphan Crop Seeds Distribution” the government would help farmers to expand food resource base and reduce the over reliance on particular crops.

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The project is a collaboration between the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), the Kenya Seed Company and the Agricultural Development Corporation at a cost of Sh150 million.

“The successful implementation of this initiative calls for a deliberate effort by all stakeholders including researchers, extension providers, seed companies and farmers to participate in this noble venture,” stated the minister.

While explaining that the East African Breweries Limited (EABL) had started a program of using white sorghum for brewing lager beer, which would require 24, 000 tonnes per year,  Ruto said his ministry would also be distributing over 100 tonnes of white sorghum seeds to farmers in 62 districts to enable the brewer carry out its objective.

The minister also has assured the public that adequate measures have been undertaken to ensure that there is enough food in the country.

“I am glad to say that the situation is not as grave as we had anticipated earlier. We can now report that the stocks we have can last up to August and therefore a month to bridge the gap,” he added.

Several measures such maize imports, lowering of duty on some commodities have already been undertaken to address the food situation.

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