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By JOSEPH WANGUI
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By GITONGA MARETE
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Maize farmers will from tomorrow start receiving payments amounting to Sh1.4 billion for deliveries made to the cereals board between October 2017 and April 2018, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri has said.

He said the delay was caused by lack of funds, ongoing verification of the farmers and incapacitation of the Board of Strategic Food Reserve (SFR) that is supposed to make the payments.

“We were not able to pay our farmers because the maize that was brought to the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) exceeded the amount of money budgeted. And therefore it was compulsory for the government to go through the budget system and then allocate the funds for us to be able to pay the farmers,” Mr Kiunjuri said.

Speaking at Kiamuiru Catholic Church in Nyeri, he explained that the board, which is supposed to make the payments, was not fully constituted by then.

The board’s term was renewed last week through a gazette notice.

Mr Kiunjuri said by the end of next week, all the verified farmers who supplied their produce to the government will have been paid their dues.

He said the verification exercise is still ongoing and is expected to be completed in two week’s time to enable the government clear the debts.

Last month, Agriculture Principal Secretary Richard Lesiyampe, NCPB Eldoret silo manager Renson Korir and six other officials were charged over a Sh6 billion scandal after suspicious payments were made to some farmers.

Mr Kiunjuri said a committee made of officials from the board and the ministry will be formed to agree on how much the government will buy maize for storage in the forthcoming rainy season.

“Bumper harvest is expected and we are also expecting favourable weather conditions. December will be raining through January, February and March; and therefore we expect stability in terms of food. The cost of food should continue to go down,” Mr Kiunjuri said.

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He added that there is abundant harvest and the country is not about to experience any shocks from weather or anything that can make food prices to go up.

Mr Kiunjuri stated that the board is selling maize to millers at Sh1,600, adding that traders should also lower the price of a two-kilogramme maize flour packet to Sh75. He warned traders against exploiting consumers by hiking prices.

“We buy the maize at a higher cost and sell to the millers at a lower cost. For example, this time round we have offered maize to the millers at Sh1,600 and Sh1,500. We bought it at Sh3,200 because maize has a shelf life. We expect to always hold maize for 24 months and we have market stabilisers.”

At the same time, the CS warned traders selling maize flour at exorbitant prices that they will be arrested and prosecuted.

He also said there is no negotiation concerning his announcement made last week that the two kilogramme packet should retail at Sh75 in a move intended to protect consumers from exploitation.

“There is no discussion about this directive and those who go against it will face the law. We will not allow Kenyans to be exploited by millers and traders,” Mr Kiunjuri said during the Meru Dairy Cooperative Union farmers’ day.

This comes even is even as farmers in the North Rift said fixing the prices might destabilise the local market, resulting in a decline in farm gate prices

But Mr Kiunjuri maintained that lower maize prices should be reflected in flour prices, saying the only way to protect consumers from exploitation by millers and traders was to set the price of maize flour.

“There is no way the price of unga can remain the same when millers buy a bag of maize at Sh2,800, and now when it is going for Sh1,600,” he said.

On milk production, Mr Kiunjuri said the government is keen on providing cooling storage facilities in the country to battle post-harvest losses, which he said are estimated at six percent.

He said six more coolers would be provided to Meru farmers in addition to the 16 already installed. In Tharaka Nithi, 16 coolers have also been installed.



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