NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 14 – The government has refused to give in to pressure from Members of Parliament and wheat farmers who are want the lowering wheat import duty from 35 percent to 10 percent reversed, to ‘protect Kenyan farmers.’
Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta told Parliament on Wednesday that his action contained in this year’s Budget was informed by a similar rate in other East African Community partner States.
Mr Kenyatta said with the commencement of the East African Common Market Protocol, goods will be moving freely across the States and as such there was need for uniform rates.
“It would not make sense to maintain the high rates since the wheat imported by Tanzania, for example, on the low rates would move freely in the region therefore undermining the logic,” he said.
MPs however accused Mr Kenyatta of being insensitive to local farmers saying the move would see prices fall below the production cost.
"We cannot continue to kill our farmers and allow those from Eastern Europe who have subsidies at home to dump their products in our country. Can the Minister table minutes showing that he defended the interest of this country at the highest levels of the EAC secretariat?" posed Ikolomani MP Bonny Khalwale.
Mr Kenyatta said there is need to allow imports since the region produces only 20 percent of its demands and so there was need to consider the interest of consumers.
“As much as we wanted to protect our farmers we must also ensure that consumers can get affordable wheat products,” said the Minister.
“We cannot import high rates when member countries are not producing enough. When we can produce enough we can raise this tariff to even 75 percent,” he said.
Wheat farmers in Narok have in the last weeks demonstrated to show their anger at the lowering of import duty. MPs from the region have also on several occasions said the reduction of the rates is hurting local farmers who have to compete with cheap European wheat.
“Can the Minister assure this House that he will give money to the Ministry of Agriculture to purchase the wheat from farmers at the price of Sh2,700 per bag which is the lowest production cost?” demanded Kilgoris MP Gideon Konchellah.
Mr Kenyatta however refused to make the promise only saying “we will see what we can do to support the wheat farmers.”