Kenyans risk running out of flour in the next couple of days following maize shortage in the market and the delays by National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) in releasing stocks that millers have already paid for.
In the same vein, livestock farmers would be hit hard by the expected rise in the cost of animal feeds.
The delay which according to the Grain Mill Owners association has been occasioned by the letter written to the State Department of Agriculture Principal Secretary by a member of the United Grain Millers Association (UGMA) alleging improper allocation of the maize to processors, forcing the ministry to stop distribution process.
Speaking on Tuesday during a press briefing in Nairobi, the Grain Millers Owners Association Secretary James Mwangi Njuguna said the letter written by the United Grain Millers Association has no basis at all given that some of the members under the umbrella body have paid and already allocated their shares.
“As millers, we fully support the Strategic Food Reserve (SFR), which vetted us and issued the letters to our members to collect the grain, only to be stopped by the Ministry of Agriculture,’’ he said.
Currently, Njuguna noted that they have so far paid Ksh 1 billion in purchase of maize at the SFR and the move to stop distribution to processors who have duly complied with the set requirements has had negative effects with some of them forced to shut their mill.
Out of the 200 millers who are members of the association, the Secretary explained that 50 have already closed shop due to the maize shortage and this has affected over 1, 000 employees.
“We paid the money three weeks ago to SFR and millers have got no cash at the moment to buy maize from the market given that they paid all that they had to government in the hope that they would get the grain from the NCPB shortly after making the payment,” Njuguna noted
He called upon government to act in the best interest of the consumers and ignore the allegations made by a disgruntled member of the United Grain Millers Association in order to save Kenyans from a looming crisis that will impact negatively on the prices.
The maize at NCPB, he reiterated, is in bad state and further delays in releasing are compromising on the quality thus at some point they shall decline to take the grain on account of quality, which is deteriorating.
“ We can say with certainty that our flour is going to be out of the shelves in the next couple of days if the maize is not released immediately for milling,” Njuguna said.
The millers together with Association of Kenya Feed Manufacturers have already petitioned top government officials on the issue and this morning served Cabinet Secretaries in charge of Interior and Coordination of National Government, Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Irrigation and National Treasury and Planning.
“We have also served Aden Ali Sheik, Chairperson Agriculture Committee, Chairman Strategic Food Reserve Oversight Board Noah Wekesa, Chairman NCPB Mutea Iringo and National Security Intelligence Service boss Philip Kameru,” he said .
Martin Kinoti, Secretary General of the Association of Kenya Feed Manufacturers (AKEFEMA), said the shortage of maize in the country has led to an increase in maize prices and this has escalated the cost of animal feeds by Ksh 300.
A bag of maize in the market has gone up to a high of Ksh 3, 900 to Ksh 4, 000.
“If the government does not take immediate action, more millers will close down and this will impact on livestock production and trickle down to affect prices of milk and eggs in the market,” he said .
Kinoti has called on the government to abolish duty on yellow maize and allow processors to import for exclusive use of animal feeds saying currently the price of animal feeds have hit a 3 year high and they are expected to continue on an upward trend in the coming days if no action is taken by the State.
“We would also want to urge the government to expedite the process of imports of both white and yellow maize because the available stocks can only last up to July,” Kinoti said.
There is a tag of war between the ministry of agriculture, the Strategic Food Reserve and the National Cereals and Produce Board which has delayed the release of two million bags of maize to millers. Out of this, animal feed millers were supposed to get 300,000 bags.