The National Assembly today kicked started the process of addressing the current high cost of living, with debate and amendments to the Finance bill to lower taxation on various food commodities.
That happened as Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich met the Finance Committee chaired by Benjamin Langat in Mombasa where he presented a raft of measures to help tame the high food prices.
Apart from the Finance Bill, Rotich will meet with Budget and Appropriations Committee tomorrow to come up with ways of addressing the current food crisis before the budget is presented to the House for debate.
Meanwhile, supermarkets in Nairobi and its environs have nearly run out of maize flour, The Informer can report.
The situation is likely to be compounded as the Government’s strategic grain reserve quantities drop to 457,000 bags of maize, far below the normal quantity of not less than 4 million bags annually.
National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) managing director Newton Terer confirmed that the quantity has dropped after the release of 750,000 bags last month to large and small-scale millers while other maize had been released earlier for famine relief services.
“We are only waiting to replenish the stock starting from mid-July when the first harvest from the South Rift will be received and thus stabilise the market,” said Terer.
Government had planned to beef up the stocks at the national grain reserve to 8 million bags annually but due to low production this has not been achieved.
Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries confirmed that the country produced 37 million bags of maize in 2016 which has reduced from slightly over 40 million in previous years.
And in Parliament, members who sit on the committee confirmed that the proposals by Rotich would be presented through various amendments to be introduced to the Bill during the third reading, which allows members to make changes.
The Bill, now in the second reading, is aimed at addressing revenue-raising measures for the 2017/2018 financial year.
And today Leader of Majority in the National Assembly Aden Duale disclosed that they are waiting for Rotich to send the said proposals to the House.
Part of the proposals, he said, include amendments to the Finance Bill to reduce taxation on various commodities as well as reducing the cost of food processing including maize flour, milk and bread.
He said: “I expect the minister to use this Bill to reduce the cost of living. The minister is currently meeting the finance committee in Mombasa and we expect him to come up with amendments to reduce taxes.”
Duale, who was moving the Finance Bill, said they also expected Rotich to table the Supplementary Estimates requesting the House to provide resources to help lower the high cost of living.
Budget and appropriations chairperson Mutava Musyimi also confirmed to the House that his committee would be meeting Rotich tomorrow.
The sentiments by the two came even as MPs raised concerns over the high cost of food prices during debate on the Finance Bill.
South Imenti MP Kathuri Murungi demanded that Mutava tells the House the measures the committee intends to table to lower food prices.
Homa Bay county MP Gladys Wanga expressed concern that it has become expensive for Kenyans to afford a packet of flour.
She said it was regrettable that a packet of maize flour was retailing at Sh 180 and that of milk at Sh 55. Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi said that the reason there was a massive shortage of food commodities was that the country imported very cheap fertilisers last year.
Wandayi said it was regrettable that Kenyans were suffering yet the government was not taking action.
But Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri told off the Opposition, saying they had not brought any bill to the House.