Nandi Hills Member of National Assembly Alfred Keter has warned Kenyans of a plot to create another maize shortage in the country to open doors for unscrupulous traders to import.
Addressing the press in parliament buildings on Friday, Keter said the reason the Ministry of Agriculture was claiming that the maize in the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) depots has spoilt is to dispose off the maize to create a shortage and allow for more importation of the cereal.
The firebrand MP said the people who benefited the most from the subsidy program under the NCPB through payments instead of genuine farmers were unscrupulous traders who imported the maize.
He said the claim the maize in the NCPB depots has spoilt and consequently to be disposed off was also a cover up for unscrupulous traders who were paid despite not supplying anything to the NCPB.
“They want to do a cover up because in most cases, most of the brokers were paid and yet they did not supply anything to the NCPB,”
At the same time, Keter cautioned maize farmers over a plot to discourage them from maize production. He said some people including some politicians were going round urging farmers to abandon or reduce maize farming and diversify crop production. This he said those who benefited from the maize scandal were intent on ensuring that farmers attain a low produce to create shortages to enable them to major on importing the commodity year in, year out and continue benefiting themselves.
“That is the reason why some of this brokers have started campaigns telling farmers that they should diversify the crops that they are producing. They are telling them to produce other crops because they want to import,” Keter said.
“There is no reduction in the consumption of maize in the country. Citizens are using the cereal for meals and the dairy industry is using it for animal feeds. There is a deliberate attempt to discourage farmers from producing, so that they will always get an advantage of importing more maize,” he added.
Keter asked Cabinet Secretary in charge of Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri to act swiftly to address the maize crisis and tell Kenyans the names of persons responsible for causing the crisis.
“We want the CS to tell Kenyans who are responsible for this crisis. He must come out. The President instructed him to use the shortest time possible to identify those responsible for the maize crisis. We are calling on Kiunjuri to move with speed and efficiency,” he said.
He asked CS Kiunjuri to resign in the event of failure to address crises in the Agriculture department.
“If you cannot manage, you can as well resign. We have other Kenyans who can serve in that capacity well so that we ensure we increase food production in the country,”
Keter highlighted the need to tackle food insecurity in the country by encouraging increase in local production and eliminating dependency on other countries for importation.
“We cannot address the issue of food insecurity while depending on other countries to supply us with food, we must be a food sufficient country by encouraging local production,”
He said it was important to safeguard and promote farming in the country because it was the main source of employment for most Kenyans.
Keter warned that Kenya’s economy was on the brink of collapse due to dependence on other countries for importation of many commodities. He said it was essential to encourage more local production to reduce imports and increase exports.
“Kenya we are on the brink of collapsing our economy by depending on other countries for every commodity. We must reduce what we are importing and increase our imports. The only sure way is by encouraging and promoting farmers to produce more,” he said.
He called on the committee of Agriculture, both in the National assembly and the Senate, to speed up inquiry into the maize crisis and make recommendations on legislative proposals to safeguard the interests of farmers and encourage farmers to continue production.
He asked the relevant investigative authorities to investigate graft in the maize sector and bring those responsible to book.
“We are calling on the Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission and other relevant agencies to carry out investigations to identify brokers,” Keter said.
“We want to know all this people. Who are the owners of Koilel farm, a company that had a separate queue for themselves supplying maize to the NCPB aside from farmers who had a long queue,” he said.
“Why were this people given priority? Why were this people paid immediately, why were brokers who supplied nothing to the NCPB paid?” He pondered.
Keter said that farmers have suffered enough from delay in payments that has exposed them to severe financial problems. He decried the fact that some farmers still have produce in their stores from last season and they are already harvesting for this season.
Keter recognized and lauded efforts by President Kenyatta to ensure the Ministry of Agriculture addresses the maize crisis. While promising support, he urged the President to continue the fight against graft in the sector.
He said the President felt the plight of farmers and was the only hope for Kenyans. He said “The rest have started campaigns for diversification because they want to continue benefiting from the imports of maize.”