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Govt says there is food yet people starve

NAIROBI, October 16 – The government now claims to have enough food supplies to feed starving Kenyans despite reported deaths due to lack of food in some parts of the country.

Agriculture Assistant Minister Kareke Mbiuki said on Thursday that thousands of bags of food were lying at the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) stores and blamed the Ministry of Special Programs for delaying its distribution to the hungry.

“The challenge is for them to put up the necessary infrastructure to distribute the food,” he said. “I believe we have the capacity and we also have development partners who are ready to chip in.”

Mr Mbiuki, who spoke at celebrations to mark this year’s World Food Day fell short of accusing Special Programs Minister Naomi Shabaan of incompetence, saying she needed to step up her efforts.

Hundreds of thousands of people are reported to be starving in a number of districts especially those in arid and semi arid regions.

Meanwhile, the government announced that it would begin supplying subsidised fertiliser to farmers in Central, Eastern and South Rift regions from Friday. The Assistant Minister said that the fertilizer would be sold at NCPB offices and other divisional selling points to be set up by the ministry.

“We have procured fertiliser worth Sh396 million for all the areas experiencing short rains. The flat rate for Di-Ammonium Phosphate (DAP) will be Sh4, 000 down from Sh6, 500,” Mr Mbiuki revealed and added that the procurement for bulky fertiliser for another Sh11.5 billion would commence on Friday.

He put cartels in the fertiliser business on notice and said that the government was committed to protecting the farmers. Mr Mbiuki said that plans to set up a fertiliser company in the country by 2010 were on-going and that a Sh10 billion revolving fund for the fertiliser project would be available annually.

On food security Mr Mbiuki cautioned the country on the introduction of bio fuel plants. “What we are saying is that the current arable lands should be maintained as they are. But the dry areas are the ones we need to put under the bio fuel crops,” he said. Food experts have expressed concerns over the introduction of Jatropha plants in Kenya as it is feared that it would be a threat to food security.

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Food and Agricultural Organization country representative Castro Camarada read the message of the Director General Jacques Diouf who urged countries around the world to increase investments in food production.

“We need to create food-enabling frameworks for substantial increase of direct food foreign investments for agriculture in low income food deficit countries,” part of his statement said.

He urged developed countries to consider partnering with the third world nations; “Equitable partnerships between nations that have land, water, labour and supply and those that have financial resources, management facilities and markets would constitute a solid base for sustainable agriculture.”


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