Is maize subsidy to millers or farmers?

A meeting between Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett and National Assembly Agriculture Committee over the importation 29,000 metric tonnes of Mexican Maize into the country, ended in disarray after MPs questioned the subsidy extended to millers instead of farmers.

Committee chairperson Abdi Nooru was forced to adjourn the meeting which had turned chaotic after MPs John Serut (Mt Elgon) and Fred Outa (Nyando) demanded that the CS submit a list showing the funds allocated in form subsides to the millers.

Serut and Outa contend the government erred in allocating Sh1,300 per 90 kilogramme of maize to the millers while at the same time refusing to adjust the buying price to mop up the existing maize stocks currently being held by farmers and traders in parts of the country.

The MPs said the committee had learned that some millers were buying a 90 kilogramme bag of maize at more than Sh4,200 and yet Bett was not forthcoming about what the government was paying millers.

Three private millers, Kitui Flour Mills, Pembe Flour Mills and Hydery (P) Ltd imported the maize following a tax exemption notice on maize published in the Kenya Gazette on May 4.

The probe comes after the arrival of some 29,900 tonnes of maize that were trans-shipped from South Africa.

Bett later explained to journalists how the government arrived at the Sh1,300 subsidy.

According to the CS the figure is the difference between Sh4,900 the millers used to by the maize from the international market against the Sh3,600 per 90Kg bag the government is offering farmers.

Alfred Keter (Nandi Hills), Silas Tiren (Moiben), Francis Waititu (Juja) and Mary Wambui (Othaya) joined in the fray demanding that the CS provide a list of all millers involved in the importation and all beneficiaries of the ongoing subsidy programme.

“We are aware, and Kenyans also know, that these millers are crooks. We have information that they are the biggest beneficiaries of the shortage. The CS and his brigade cannot come here and pretend to be protecting farmers and consumers when they cannot table the crucial information we want,” Keter said.

“It is unfortunate that the CS is taking us around corners. Can he table the said documents here and let us question him on what we have?” Tiren asked.

Bett said the millers expected to sell a 90 kilogramme bag of the maize at Sh4,900 which MPs say is the same amount the government would have spent if it topped up the Sh3,600 the National Cereals and Produce Board is offering farmers to buy the produce.

This came after Bett defended the government’s decision to subsidise imported stock to millers because large-scale farmers were hoarding supply.

“When we were doing the intervention in the release of the first one million bags of maize from the Strategic Grain Reserve, I made it very clearly and I was appealing to Kenyans because we had noticed some big farmers and traders were still hoarding what they have. I even warned it through media that anybody who is still holding the grain, ‘would burn their fingers’” the CS stated.

The meeting will resume next Thursday.

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