Kenya assured of sufficient food

December 30, 2008

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 30 -The government has assured the public that the country will not experience a food shortage despite inadequate rainfall and increased costs of agricultural inputs over the year.

Agriculture minister William Ruto says there is enough stock of maize to last the country the next three months prior to the importation of the approved five million bags of maize.

"There won\’t be any gap because whatever supply we have will be enough until the importation exercise which rolls into action in the next 10 days," Mr Ruto explained.

Speaking after a Cabinet committee meeting on food security with the Prime Minister, Mr Ruto defended the government against accusations that it was importing maize before exporting local stocks thus discouraging farmers from growing the crop.

 "We are trying to be fair to everybody and I think it will be irresponsible of us to wait until we have no maize for us to import maize. We have the benefit of data and we know how much maize is being held by farmers and as the Prime Minister would say we can chew gum and scale the stairs at the same time," he said.

The Agriculture minister further revealed that a decision had been made to allow the government import 2,000 bags of maize duty free while the private sector was going to import the remaining 3,000 bags.

At the same time, Ruto said the government had identified 24 distributors in Nairobi to overcome the distribution bottlenecks being experienced in the disbursement of subsidised maize.

He said this initiative combined with the directive that all National Cereals Produce Board depots in the country sell smaller quantities of 20 kilograms bags would ensure cheaper access of maize flour for all.

He said the government had disbursed an extra 500,000 bags for milling, 30 percent of which would cater for the subsidised government flour.

Meanwhile Ruto announced that stocks of subsidised fertilizer which will cost between Sh2,700 for DAP and Sh1,400 for CAN should be in the country by early January.

"We have already signed the contract and the first one million bags of the assorted fertilizer that we have negotiated to reduce the price from Sh6,200 to a price of Sh2,700," he said.

Speaking in the same function Prime Minister Raila Odinga said long term remedial measures to the current shortage of food was being addressed as the state had ordered for importation of seeds and fertilizers for later sale to farmers at subsidised prices to encourage production and reduce the cost of farm inputs.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga however censured farmers for agitating for higher prices for their produce even after the government addressed the issue and cautioned them to be mindful of the welfare of the consumers and desist from pursuing selfish interest.

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