Kenya

Rift MPs deny maize shortage, accuse CS of shielding cartels

Rift MPs deny maize shortage, accuse CS of shielding cartels
  • The MPs from the Rift Valley described the ministry as a theatre of absurdities, whose every nook and cranny cartels have infiltrated.
  • They want President Uhuru Kenyatta to sack Mr Kiunjuri as they believe change cannot take place while he is in charge.
  • The CS said 12 million bags will be imported with this approval to cushion the public from the high cost of maize flour, and another six million bags to cushion dairy farmers.
  • The MPs and Mr Wekesa disputed the figures and accused Mr Kiunjuri of creating an artificial shortage to benefit cartels.

Seven members of Parliament have assailed Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri accusing him of protecting cartels in the ministry.

The MPs from the Rift Valley described the ministry as a theatre of absurdities, whose every nook and cranny cartels have infiltrated.

They want President Uhuru Kenyatta to sack Mr Kiunjuri as they believe change cannot take place while he is in charge.

ACOUNTABILITY

Led by Cherangany MP Joshua Kuttuny, the lawmakers rejected claims of a maize shortage and challenged the CS to come clean on who he is allegedly working for.

They said so following the CS's report on Wednesday, on the need for Kenya to import 19  million bags of maize.

“Mr Kiunjuri must be accountable to the public. Any blame for excess importation of maize will be taken to his doorstep," Mr Kuttuny told a media briefing at Panafric hotel in Nairobi on Thursday.

"If it’s about cartels we know he is their leader because he is the author of this maize shortage scheme."

IMPORTS

The MPs, who addressed the press accompanied by Strategic Food Reserve (SFR) chair Noah Wekesa, were also riled by comments attributed to the CS, in which it appeared the public was being asked to brace for higher maize flour prices in the next few weeks.

Speaking in Mombasa during the launch of the Agricultural Transformation and Support Food Security Strategy, Mr Kiunjuri said there was a shortage of 19 million bags of both animal and human feed.

He noted the need for imports but said the Cabinet had not given its approval.

The CS said 12 million bags will be imported with this approval to cushion the public from the high cost of maize flour, and another six million bags to cushion dairy farmers.

The MPs and Mr Wekesa disputed the figures and accused Mr Kiunjuri of creating an artificial shortage to benefit cartels.

They asked Mr Kiunjuri to reveal where he obtained the figures.

FUND

The importation falls of maize falls within the legal mandate of the SFR, which is managed by a board chaired by Dr Wekesa, with the ministry administering the fund.

“The Agriculture ministry is the administrator of the fund but the CS can do nothing without the resolution of a board,” Dr Wekesa noted.

He further said the minister did not consult the board before making the announcement.

The former Wildlife and Forestry minister also claimed that Mr Kiunjuri refuses to give him audience every time he visits the ministry with critical issue to discuss.

In a rejoinder from Mombasa, Mr Kiunjuri said statements on maize imports by Dr Wekesa were reckless and amounted to insubordination.

He accused Dr Wekesa of issuing statements that were contradicting the ministry’s food security position.

“Any other body that would like to issue a statement on maize imports cannot do that because the ministry has the final say.

“The ministry is the voice of the government when it comes to food situation in the country. Any other organisation has to get information from the ministry,” the CS said.

The board is still holding approximately 2.8 million 90-kilogram bags of maize, which Dr Wekesa said are enough to carry the country through August, ahead of the start of the harvest season in September.

Dr Wekesa noted that if there is need to import, the government will go for just two million bags to cater for late August and early September.

In May, the Cabinet authorised sale of two million bags to millers to stabilise the price of maize flour, which had increased from Sh80 in December to Sh125, a 56.25 per cent change.

However, Dr Wekesa said, millers had bought only 1.24 million bags.

Under the law, the SFR is mandated to, at any time, hold a stock of four million bags or the cash equivalent in case of emergencies.