, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 3 – Pressure continues to mount on the government to raise the purchase price of toxic maize in Eastern and Coast provinces, to match the amount being spent to buy uncontaminated maize.
Speaking at Parliament buildings on Thursday, seven MPs urged the government to raise the proposed Sh1,000 to Sh2,300 to sufficiently compensate farmers. The legislators from Eastern province said it was the government’s responsibility to bail out farmers.
“It is the responsibility of government to run at a loss, to sacrifice so that our farmers feel they are appreciated by government and they are encouraged to continue producing for this country,” said Tigania West MP Kilemi Mwiria.
Tharaka legislator Mburi Muiru took issue with the government for applying two different prices for the contaminated maize and the clean variety.
“Because people have already put in equal inputs they should be compensated equally since it is not their fault,” he said.
The MPs were also enraged by the government’s decision to lower the price of the good maize from 2,300 shillings to 1,500 shillings saying farmers could no longer recoup their investments and this was likely impact negatively on food security.
The government announced on Monday that it would begin mopping up the contaminated maize from 29 districts in the two provinces claiming that 70 percent of the produce there had dangerous levels of aflatoxin. Farmers in these areas have however taken issue with the price saying it is too low.
Some of the MPs wondered why the government was allowing the importation of duty free maize at a time the country had experienced a bumper harvest. They linked the lowering of the price to claims that a consignment of duty free maize lying at the port of Mombasa
“That is the maize that is causing havoc in this country because they (unscrupulous officials) want market for it,” said Imenti South MP Silas Ruteere.
“We believe this is a scheme to frustrate the farmer so that ‘big’ men in government can continue enriching themselves,” added Manyatta MP Kathui Muriithi.
Agriculture Assistant Minister Kareke Mbiuki who accompanied the MPs defended his ministry over the prices saying it had unsuccessfully fought hard for the increase.
“We fought hard to fix the price for bad maize at Sh1,500 and the good one at Sh2,300 but Treasury fought hard to lower them,” he said.
Elsewhere Gichugu Member of Parliament Martha Karua blasted the government for dithering as farmers in various parts of the country watched their bumper maize harvest get contaminated due to poor drying methods.
The firebrand legislator said the government was to blame for the high number of contaminated maize produce in the country since it delayed in addressing the crisis.
“There’s something that has not been going right with maize ever since we had the maize scam. It has been one wrong thing after the other. Just who is being compensated? Is it the farmer or is it the fat cats who are breaking every rule to make the food situation their cash cow?” she quipped.
Ms Karua also implored the government to investigate the real reasons behind the maize scandals that have plagued the country since last year.
“And you remember the contaminated maize issue didn’t just start this year. It started when the ministries of public health and agriculture were quarreling over a consignment of contaminated maize in 2009. It is now 2010 and more contaminated maize is being imported,” she said.