NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 6 – The Agriculture Ministry has said it will not change the price of maize as set by the Strategic Food Reserve (SFR) and approved by the Cabinet.
While appearing before the National Assembly Agriculture Committee to answer queries by Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter, the Ministry’s Chief Administrative Secretary Andrew Tuimur said their hands are tied and are not in a position to change the price as recommended by a section of Members of Parliament.
“What the board was able to buy is the two million bags of maize at the same price and whether we will change the price, I can say that SFR has already set the price and come the next season that is the same price that will be used,” Tuimur said.
He stated that the ministry has already paid maize farmers apart from those who are under investigation by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC).
The committee members were however not satisfied with Tuimur’s stand and faulted the ministry for failing to fight for the rights of maize farmers.
“We want you to go back to the Cabinet and tell them that we are not satisfied with their price. The Agriculture Committee rejected their report and if you say you cannot do anything then this shows your ministry is doing nothing to help the farmer,” Moiben MP Silas Teren said.
His sentiments were seconded by Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny who questioned the ministry for lowering the price thus setting a bad example to other millers who are interested in buying maize from farmers.
“You do not even have to buy all the maize in stores from our farmers, but we just want you to set the price that is reasonable so that even millers can approach them with good price figures. Just come up with a good price and leave the farmers alone; they will know what to do,” Kutuny said.
After a back and forth between the MPs and officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, the Committee Chair Adan Haji (Mandera South), directed the ministry to use all means possible and review the price bearing in mind the cost of production incurred by farmers.
He pledged his committee’s support to the ministry as long as the farmer is not left to suffer.
“This committee is willing to help you in any way we can even if it means we do away with some projects which are not adding value and use that money to increase the price to help farmers because honestly they are suffering,” he expressed.
On November 22, the Cabinet approved the purchase of two million 90kg bags of maize from local farmers at a price of Sh2,300.
The price has since been rejected by the Agriculture Committee, a section of MPs from the Rift Valley and farmers as well.