The country is staring at an acute food shortage after it emerged that maize reserve stores are empty.
The National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) yesterday urged the National Assembly Agriculture Committee to urgently come up with interventions to avert a food crisis.
Consequently, the board is seeking for Sh10.4 billion to purchase 2.8 million bags of local white maize at Sh2,700 per unit, 50,000 bags of beans at Sh8,100 per unit, 30,000 bags of green grams at 9,000 per unit, and 100,000 bags of rice at Sh6,000 per unit.
Other foodstuffs in the proposed budget are 20,000 bags of powdered milk at Sh17,000 per unit and 20,000 cartons of canned beef at Sh8,500 per carton. The board further seeks to purchase five million pieces of jute bags at a total cost of Sh1 billion.
“The National Food Reserve stock is totally depleted and there is need therefore for immediate build-up of requisite stocks to address the precarious national food and nutrition security status,” said NCPB managing director Joseph Kimote.
The committee chaired by Moiben MP Silas Tiren questioned the source of grains currently being distributed by the government to drought-hit arid and semi-arid areas. In September, President Uhuru Kenyatta declared the drought in the north eastern region of the country a national disaster and ordered relief food distributed to the affected families.
MPs also questioned how the NCPB board chaired by Mutea Iringo spent Sh7 billion on non-core mandates after top officials said the money was used to pay debts to millers, agencies, transporters and other players in the programme between 2017 and 2019.
The amount was part of Sh18 billion that was owed to the board by various State agencies. “NCPB received Sh7 billion from maize subsidy debt; the cost the board incurred in providing subsidy to farmers,” said Mr Kimote.
The committee questioned why the board resorted to pay other players at the expense of farmers.
It also emerged that the board procured 700,000 bags of maize under its commercial division for onward sale to generate revenue for the cash-strapped board. NCPB had expected to sell the grains at Sh2,700 per bag but could not find buyers after the market was flooded with cheap maize from Uganda.
Mr Iringo told the committee that the board has managed to reduce its debt burden from Sh18 billion to about Sh9 billion.
He said the board was still owed Sh12.7 billion under various government programmes, including fertiliser subsidy and payments to farmers.
Included in the fertiliser subsidy programme was Sh3.6 billion that was due to KCB Bank. The National Treasury agreed for the board to use Sh2.6 billion towards partial payment of the loan.
The National Treasury further directed that negotiations be held between the ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives, NCPB and KCB Bank to agree on the settlement of the balance, as well as giving waivers on interest and penalties charged to the loan account while they continued holding some funds in the current accounts.
The bank has since confirmed its willingness to grant a waiver of Sh400 million that had been charged as penalties during the period, and waiver of Sh30 million on negotiation fees.
“Based on the above position by the bank, the total loan exposure is now Sh3,671,710,234. This has been communicated to the ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives and National Treasury and is awaiting a directive on the payment terms and approval,” said Kimote.
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