- By buying from local farmers, the government will put some money into their pockets and enable them to meet their other pressing requirements.
As the government grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, one of the most commendable efforts has been to mitigate the suffering of Kenyans.
This it has done by coming up with a stimulus package that includes granting tax breaks, employment support and loan deferments to cushion the people against the economic impact of the pandemic.
It is, therefore, surprising to hear Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya say that the government will not buy maize from Kenyan farmers.
When he announced that the country was facing a serious food crisis, with the available maize only adequate to last a month, there was some flicker of hope in some Kenyans amid the gloom.
He said this would necessitate imports to plug the deficit and ensure that Kenyans, who are already feeling the coronavirus burden, do not starve.
The government, which has always played a vital role in buying grain from farmers through the National Cereals and Produce Board, has, according to CS Munya, withdrawn from the business of buying or importing grain.
This is meant to fight the endemic corruption in the grain business. However, the situation the country is dealing with at the moment is not one in which to introduce or review policies.
We are dealing with a desperate situation that calls for desperate measures.
The Agriculture ministry should be thinking seriously about how to enable the mopping up of all the maize stocks that farmers are still holding to help avert the looming shortage.
By buying from local farmers, the government will put some money into their pockets and enable them to meet their other pressing requirements.
Imports should only be sanctioned after all the maize the farmers are holding is bought. An added advantage is the potential savings on logistical expenses.
While we cannot fault CS Munya’s determination to fight corruption; it is also true from past experience that it is through allowing grain exports, as he has done, that graft in the grains sector has been entrenched.
Processors have been allowed to import four million bags of maize, but this could just open the floodgates at the expense of long-suffering Kenyan farmers.