National Super Alliance (NASA) presidential candidate Raila Odinga has accused the Government of frustrating efforts to import cheap maize from Ethiopia. On Wednesday, Raila claimed the Government was determined to import maize from Mexico yet Ethiopia had a bumper harvest last year.
He claimed the current food crisis was a ‘Jubilee manufactured famine’ to help certain importers make a killing.
“While the rest of East Africa was experiencing drought, Ethiopia harvested 4,000,000 metric tonnes of maize. Of this, 1,000,000 tons were a surplus and available for export,” he said.
Raila also asked Uhuru to fire Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett and his PS Paul Mwangi as well as Devolution and Planning CS Mwangi Kiunjuri who he accused of deliberately misleading Kenyans on the famine situation. Responding to Raila’s claims, Mr Bett said hunger in the country was not imaginary but real, even as he outlined the steps he had taken from the time he received a warning about a looming drought.
“In November 2016, after reviewing the situation, the government upscaled the intervention programme by putting in place a four faced national drought mitigation programme running between November 2016 to October 2017,” he said. “This saw provision of relief food to over three million Kenyans in the 23 Asal counties,” he addedt in a hastily convened press conference last evening.
Mudavadi to chair Raila campaign machine
He added that in February, the president declared drought a national disaster and followed up with the removal of VAT on Maize flour and bread in April.
But Raila told the President to form a commission to investigate the present food shortage to ascertain the causes and to make recommendations to prevent recurrence.
“The President should also remove the responsibility of importing maize from private millers and entrust it with the Strategic Grain Reserves Fund. The fund’s officers must go to Ethiopia and carry out emergency purchases and ensure they get to Kenya immediately. The Government has abdicated its responsibility for a threat to national security to profit-making companies.”
Raila said to date, the Government had only bought 50,000 metric tonnes of Ethiopian maize, of which only 25,000 metric tonnes had arrived in Kenya.
“This has been a deliberate deception by the Government with the intention of assisting brokers make a killing from the drought situation. This is clear from the way the Government has handled the issue of importation of maize from Ethiopia,” Raila claimed.
He chided the Jubilee administration for saying Kenya was receiving more maize from Mexico, which is 45 days away by sea than from Ethiopia, which is only one day away by road.
“Till today, the Government is still frustrating importation of food from Ethiopia. We understand the Government has delayed payment for the 50,000 metric tonnes it ordered and the exporter has been forced to come to Nairobi where he has been for several days now running after his payment.”
He added: “The clearance of lorries in Moyale is also being frustrated and only 10 lorries are being allowed through daily. Food is in some cases being transferred from Ethiopian to Kenyan lorries, further delaying supplies.”
To curb rising food prices, the State offered millers maize a subsidised price of Sh2,300 per 90-kilo bag to bring down retail prices to Sh90 per two kg packet from Sh140.