Rift Valley MPs plan demos over maize dues

Rift Valley MPs plan demos over maize dues

- in Business, News

Four MPs from Rift Valley have now given the government until Monday to release the Sh3.5 billion owed to farmers who supplied maize to the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) last year or face massive protests.

Over the weekend, National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich had said that by Monday this week, all the monies owed to the farmers will have been released for the supplies they made between October 2017 and April 2018.

Similar comments have also been made by Mr Rotich’s colleague in Agriculture, Mwangi Kiunjuri.

But the farmers are yet to get a penny raising speculations as to whether the government will meet its part of the bargain before the harvesting season gets underway.

Already, some farmers in North Rift have already started harvesting maize with what they reaped last year still in stores.

The failure by the government to live up to its promise saw MPs, Alfred Keter (Nandi Hills), Silas Tiren (Moiben), Joshua Kandie (Baringo Central) and Sammy Seroney (nominated), who addressed the media at Parliament buildings, threaten to lead demonstrations on Monday if nothing will have changed.

“If by Monday the government will not have released the farmers’ dues, we will organize the mother of demonstrations in major towns in maize growing zones,” Mr Keter said.

“We want to stand with the farmers and we will bring them to the streets of Kitale, Moi’s Bridge, Eldoret, Kapsabet, Nandi Hills, Nakuru and all other maize growing areas,” he said.

The four claimed that in the first batch of payment, brokers, among them senior political figures, benefited leaving the genuine farmers to fate.

The MPs also accused Mr Rotich and Mr Kiunjuri for deliberately lying to the hundreds of thousands of farmers “when they know that the government is not committed to the plight of farmers.”

“The maize farmers are about to make drastic decisions that will not be good for the country. They are tired of being cheated that they will be paid for maize they delivered to NCBP last year and in January this year,” Mr Tiren, a large scale farmer in Eldoret, said.

Mr Kiunjuri attributed the delay in settling the farmers’ dues to lack of funds, ongoing audit of farmers who supplied the maize and the incapacitation of the board of the Strategic Food Reserve (SFR) that is supposed to make the payments.

“We were not able to pay our farmers because the maize that was brought to the NCPB exceeded the money budgeted for,” Mr Kiunjuri had said.

The SFR board’s term was renewed last week through a gazette notice.

The legislators faulted Mr Kiunjuri for making false promises even as they warned that they will no longer tolerate cartels who import maize and sale to the government using their political connections at the expense of the local farmers.

“We see this as a deliberate attempt to frustrate local farmers to create room for future maize imports. We saw the NCPB pay merchants and cartels, who imported and supplied maize from Mexico, Brazil, Uganda and Tanzania. They in fact got paid a day or two after deliveries yet farmers have never been paid,” Keter said.

When he appeared before the Senate’s ad hoc committee on maize in August, Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa said that only farmers, who have been successfully vetted, will be the first to get their cash.

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