Kenyan MPs plead over maize price

June 2, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 2 – A section of Members of Parliament want the government to review the buying price of contaminated maize upwards to Sh2,300.

The MPs led by Mutito legislator Kiema Kilonzo protested the government’s plan to buy the maize from farmers at Sh1,000 per bag and termed it an insult to farmers.

Mr Kilonzo said on Wednesday that the government should also immediately open all the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) stores to enable farmers sell their maize with ease.

“We are urging farmers to stay put, not to sell their maize to government at the price of Sh1,000,” he advised.

“We are also asking the government whether this is a way of trying to mop up the food in our areas so as to find markets for the GMO food which has been imported by cartels in this country,” the MP said.

Bura MP Dr Abdi Nuh blamed the government for the contamination of the maize with aflatoxin saying it was its inefficiency and reluctance to buy the maize early enough that led to the rise in moisture levels in the maize.

“The government urged farmers not to sell the maize to anyone else because they wanted to buy it using the cereals board so farmers were holding this maize for the government,” he explained.

“And the same government was in the picture of the production cycle and it well knew when this maize was to be harvested,” Dr Nuh said.

Both MPs accused the government of lack of commitment to help farmers and said they would raise the matter once parliament resumed its sitting next week to propel the government to review the prices upwards.

“I come from one of the affected regions and this is the maize we have been eating. How have they (government) been able to identify that which is contaminated? It seems like the government is not coming out clean on this issue,” Mr Kilonzo said.

About three weeks ago, the government announced that it would purchase contaminated maize from farmers in Eastern and Coast provinces in an attempt to stop the circulation of the deadly aflatoxin fungi in the market.

The contamination of grains is not new to Kenya and has in the past claimed lives as happened in 2004 when 150 people died after they consumed aflatoxin-infected maize. This time however, no deaths have been reported.

High humidity caused by continued heavy rains has caused extensive damage to farmers’ harvests in the two regions due to what has largely been attributed to limited knowledge on how to dry and store the grains.

The grains that are believed to be highly contaminated were those harvested during the long rains season of March to May.

Farmers in Eastern and Coast provinces were believed to be holding more than four million bags of maize.

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