Legislators from maize growing zones in the country, particularly the Rift Valley want the government to immediately halt importation of maize until it has mopped up the 2022 harvest, citing the interests of farmers.
The elected leaders from the zones will be meeting Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi and his Trade counterpart Moses Kuria to discuss the way forward on plans to import maize.
Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei, who is among those opposed to plans to import 10 million bags of maize to mitigate the current food crisis in the country, said the MPs from the region will do everything possible to bar the duty-free imports.
He told Mr Kuria to suspend the process until February to allow farmers to harvest their maize and sell it.
The senator said farmers from the maize-growing parts of the Rift Valley are anticipating a bumper harvest, hence importation of the maize will flood local markets at their expense.
“For farmers in the North Rift and most parts of Kenya where we plant maize, this is the harvest season and we thought it wise that the Ministry of Trade should hold on importation of maize until we harvest ours and the NCPB (National Cereals and Produce Board) opens the stores for farmers to deliver their produce,” said the Nandi senator.
He wants the government to set viable prices for maize from farmers ahead of the anticipated harvest.
Mr Cheragei said that the importation of 10 million bags of maize will greatly affect the price of local maize, bearing in mind that the cost of farming inputs during the last planting season was extremely high.
The legislator defended farmers against allegations of hiding maize, accusing NCPB of delaying the opening of their stores for farmers to start delivery.
“NCPB has not opened its stores and prices have not been set. I wonder why CS Kuria says that farmers are not bringing maize yet the stores have not been opened to receive maize from farmers,” said Mr Cherargei.
He added that this season, farmers are likely to harvest more than 40 million bags of maize, which is sufficient to feed the nation.
According to him, importing maize will be a big blow to farmers and it will kill their morale as they will be forced to sell their produce at throwaway prices.
The legislators also want the government to stop lowering maize prices and instead ensure the buying price is proportional to the cost of inputs.
“The government must stop lowering the price of maize and the lowest price we are anticipating should be above Sh3,500 per sack during harvesting season,” said Mr Cherargei. “Avoid lowering prices to a point where it doesn’t match the input costs incurred by maize farmers.”
Last week, Mr Kuria said the government has allowed the importation of GMO and non-GMO maize into the country for the next six months.
He said the move was meant to help improve the food security situation in the country.