Members of a team that pegged the cost of maize at a figure considered unrealistic by farmers have been sent back to the drawing board.
Members of Parliament said Tuesday that the board of the Strategic Food Reserve Fund (SFR) had not provided a comprehensive report on how they reached the price they announced last week.
Board chairman Noah Wekesa and his team came face to face with hostile lawmakers who told them that farmers would not accept anything less than Sh3,200 for a 90kg bag of maize. The board had suggested Sh2,300 for a 90kg bag of maize.
The MPs accused Dr Wekesa and his team of frustrating farmers by setting a buying price that does not factor’ production costs and current market rates.
“We need a scientific report backed by numbers and the areas you benchmarked that led to setting the price at Sh2,300. Any other thing will be deemed as a mere statement from a politician,” the National Assembly’s Agriculture committee chairman, Mr Adan Haji (Mandera South), said.
Kwanza MP Ferdinand Wanyonyi, added they expected “nothing less than Sh3,200” even if they furnished the committee with a detailed report.
Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri on Monday suspended the price set by the SFR board following cries by maize farmers and governors from Rift Valley.
Further, Mr Kiunjuri said the government had deployed experts to inspect 3.5 million bags of maize at the National Cereals and Produce Board reserves.
Asked why the board lowered the price it offered last year, Dr Wekesa cited dynamics brought about by large imports during the duty-free window ordered by the government mid last year.
The SFR intends to buy 2.5 million bags of maize from the 2018/19 harvest.
The lawmakers accused SFR of failing to consult farmers before setting the price. Dr Wekesa responded that the board was guided by the policy guidelines the Agriculture ministry set in September.
He also told the committee that the board conducted a survey in February on the cost of producing maize together with the Agriculture ministry and Tegemeo Institute.
Counties covered in the survey included Bungoma, Trans Nzoia and Uasin Gishu.
“We consulted small-scale and large-scale farmers, the cereals board and the Ministry of Agriculture before arriving at the price,” Dr Wekesa said.
Other factors considered in setting the price were prevailing local maize prices, local production and regional supplies, cost of inputs and impacts of tax and natural calamities, he said.
The committee, however, dismissed the survey.