Ruto faces roasting over maize imports

August 24, 2008

, NAIROBI, August 24 – Agriculture Minster William Ruto will be under the spotlight this week, when he is expected to be grilled by the Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC) over the importation of 150,000 metric tonnes of maize.

PAC Chairman Bonny Khalwale told Capital News on Sunday that they had summoned Ruto to clarify the tendering process, and whether it was above board.

He said of concern to the committee was the single sourcing of the tender.

“Tenders attracting Sh1.6 billion must be done above board. There is information that the tendering has been abused and we would like the Minister to explain this,” said Khalwale.

The Government set out to import three million bags of maize in June to avert a looming food shortage caused by the post-election violence that forced thousands of farmers to flee their homesteads.

Ruto had said violent mobs protesting against presidential election results had destroyed some 3.5 million bags of maize in stores in the agriculturally rich Rift Valley Province.

Khalwale has said that the Minister will also be asked to explain the statistics used to arrive at the tonnage.

He further stated that the market was likely to be flooded and affect the local prices.

“We want Ruto to assure that when they import the maize it will meet the difference in terms of shortfall, because we fear they could import more than we require and cause prices to drop.”

The Agriculture Minister had previously said that the government was re-evaluating its stocks so that it does not flood the market with imports at the expense of local farmers.

Last month, Kenya sought to buy the tonnes of maize from Tanzania but their request was turned down.

President Jakaya Kikwete said Tanzania could not meet the appeal because it did not have the maize required in its strategic grain reserves.

However, Kikwete said Tanzania would sell 4,000 tonnes of maize to Kenya.

Agriculture Ministry officials said the consignment was expected to start arriving in August.

They said the amount was needed between now and October, when Kenyan farmers are expected to start harvesting.

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