What you need to know:
- Mr Kang’ata said he wants the county compelled to reveal how much has been used so far to establish the processor, the market gains and bank details, who supplied MCC machinery at what cost and above all, who owns the processor.
A Senate committee will investigate the operations of the giant Murang’a Co-operative Creameries (MCC), which Governor Mwangi wa Iria launched in 2019.
This comes after the withdrawal of five members from the once 33-member organisation.
A pet project of Governor Wa Iria that was instrumental in winning him a second term, making him the only governor to be re-elected in Central region, the processor is now on the verge of collapse after its major founding cooperative societies stopped supplying it with milk.
Kahuro, Kiarutara, New Nginda, Kangari and Kigoro cooperative societies, which collectively supply about 70 per cent to the processor, have withdrawn citing non-payment for their deliveries as well as poor rates.
Farmers under these cooperatives have abandoned MCC, which used to pay Sh35 per litre of milk, to Daima Dairy, and which is now paying Sh43 for the same quantity.
This has seen MCC supplies fall from an average of 100,000 litres a day to below 15,000, leading to cessation of operations. The plant has a maximum processing capacity of 240,000 litres a day.
MCC founding chairman Julius Maina has quit alongside a group of cooperatives, who are now pooling their milk and selling it to a competitor.
As private milk buyers close ranks to wrest the market for the “white gold of Murang’a” from MCC, Governor Wa Iria has fought back by announcing new minimum guaranteed rates in quick succession, saying he is keen to squeeze better rates on behalf of the farmers.
Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata has, however, criticised the governor, saying, “he’s running MCC like a personal kiosk”.
Mr Kang’ata told the Nation he had petitioned the Senate to investigate MCC and its failure to pay farmers more than Sh200 million for milk delivered over the past two months.
“Transporters of milk from coolers to the MCC have also not been paid and all the governor is doing is to announce higher rates per litre so as to kill private processors. The move is suspected to be a smooth covert operation to kill MCC so that when he exits office next year he leaves his successor with a crisis to handle,” said the senator — claims Wa Iria calls ‘mischievous’ and playing politics with a project he hardly understands.
Wa Iria accused Senator Kang’ata of being a “milk broker” who has been inciting farmers to hawk the produce to a specific private processor where the senator allegedly has interests.
The county administration announced it was petitioning the Kenya Dairy Board to investigate the senator’s activities in the dairy sub-sector.
“Murang’a is the only county that has had a guaranteed minimum milk price (Sh35) in the whole country. When milk prices fell to a low of Sh18 in the country, we were still at Sh35. We have now moved to a minimum of Sh40 from September.
“In effect, we’ve set up a new benchmark for the nation. Which other story are you looking for? Have you ever documented that?” Wa Iria replied yesterday to Nation queries.
Mr Kang’ata said he wants the county compelled to reveal how much has been used so far to establish the processor, the market gains and bank details, who supplied MCC machinery at what cost and above all, who owns the processor.
“We can’t allow a situation to prevail where once this county government is told to account for public funds, it goes on a defamatory and slanderous spree against oversight. We need answers now,” he said.
Mr Kang’ata said MCC was brought to its knees by a poor business model and thoughtless price wars that backfired.
He said: “The agenda of MCC was to add value to milk, hence maximise returns. Farmers were supposed to be grouped into cooperative societies that would own MCC. With value addition, farmers were to earn more than Sh45 per litre besides annual dividends. None of this happened.”
Farmers are said to have held meetings with cooperative executive Paul Macharia in July to discuss payment, but the meeting yielded little.
Former Transport PS Irungu Nyakera, a farmers’ rights activist, accused Governor Wa Iria of playing monkey business with the running of the processor.
“I’ve hosted leaders of several cooperative societies that have withdrawn. I was made to understand that Wa Iria was forcing them to sell milk to MCC at Sh33 per litre. The societies said they were withdrawing to sell to a private processor, who was offering Sh43 per litre. This led to a shutdown of MCC,” he said.
But through Mr Macharia, Wa Iria said yesterday that, some political and milk-market actors were out to kill MCC to deny farmers a fall-back plan should prices dip.