Cofek’s fury over Sh3.7 billion treasury additional subsidy on maize

Secretary General of the Consumers Federation of Kenya(COFEK), Stephen Mutoro.photo:courtesy

The Consumers’ body has criticized the state’s move to replenish national grain reserves with an additional Sh3.7 billion meant to buy at least one million bags of maize.

Consumers Federation of Kenya (Cofek) has claimed extension of the subsidy to millers does not benefit the intended tens of millions of poor Kenyans who are worst hit by the current food crisis.

Cofek Secretary General Stephen Mutoro said the government is spending billions addressing the symptoms of the crisis without offering any long-term solutions.

Allocation of the Sh3.7 billion by Treasury through a supplementary budget is an addition to an earlier Sh6 billion that saw a two kilogram of maize flour go for Sh90 low from a high average of Sh180.

But Mutoro claimed unscrupulous business people-mainly in black market-have been re-packaging the subsidized flour to rake in whooping margins of over Sh30 for every two kilogram packet.

“This is a major threat to the program and for which no effective enforcement mechanism is feasible. Supermarkets are also reluctant to sell the subsidized flour as it offers them comparatively low profit margins,” said Mutoro.

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The high shortage has forced many retailers to have each of their customers not buy more than a packet.

The Cofek boss said it is clear the program is no longer workable. Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willie Bett last week hinted on the program’s failures which occasioned the formation of a task force to look into the matter.

“Mr Bett should disband the task force to avoid duplicity and potential waste of public resources. Government must now admit that its’ expensive subsidy program on maize flour has flopped,” said Mutoro.

He added that it was wrong for the government to let the major millers give terms and conditions of importing the maize leaving out their smaller counterparts.

“Government ought to stop the price fixing and then enhance supply of maize to all millers. Until then, not even hefty fines and or attempts to stem panic purchases will succeed,” Mutoro said.

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