Avert looming food crisis

The country is staring at a food crisis with reports indicating an acute shortage of maize globally.

Millers are pleading with the government to release Sh2.5 billion owed to them, plus Sh257 million interest, for supplying subsidised maize flour in the last days of the Jubilee administration. 

The Cereal Miller Association says many of its members have been auctioned for failure to meet their financial obligations, as others fold due to lack of enough grains to sustain operations.

This debt has, however, been the subject of controversy, with the Kenya Kwanza administration maintaining that the said unga (maize flour) was never supplied and accusing the millers of attempting to hold the government to ransom. For their part, the millers argue that their role ended with delivering the commodity to the distributors.

Lost in the heat of confusion is a clear way forward for a country where more than 5.1 million families are faced with starvation. The government had promised to lower the cost of unga, but the lack of maize and other basic agricultural produce globally seems to have rendered the plan a pipe dream.

Official data show the country has less than six million bags of maize, which may not last until the end of the month. True, some 42,464 tonnes of yellow maize landed on Sunday from Ukraine but that may not translate to lower unga prices, as the consignment was meant for the production of animal feeds to ease pressure on white maize.

The government should move fast and mop up the maize that farmers may have in store and, if there is still a shortage, import the deficit.

Instead of the ongoing ping-pong between the government on the one hand and millers, farmers and consumers on the other, all players must be brought together and a lasting solution to the worsening food crisis found.