Sh1m fine for traders selling unga above Sh90

Monday May 29 2017

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett displays the 2kg Sh90 packet of maize flour

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett displays the 2kg packet of maize flour retailing at Sh90, during a media briefing at the ministry on May 16, 2017. The CS said agriculture is an important component in fighting poverty. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By JAMES NGUNJIRI
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By NYABOGA KIAGE
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By MAGATI OBEBO
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Retailers selling the two kilogramme packet of subsidised maize flour above the recommended Sh90 risk a Sh1 million fine.

This follows the publication of a gazette notice giving legal backing for State control of sifted maize flour costs.

It is the first time the order has been issued under a law passed in 2011 allowing for price control of essential items.

LOWERED
On May 16, Kenya announced subsidies of Sh6 billion to maize importers to help lower the cost of flour.

The subsidy cut the price of a 90kg bag of maize to Sh2,300 from above Sh4,000, allowing the 2kg packet to be sold for Sh90 against the market price of Sh140.

“A person who contravenes the provisions of this Act commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding Sh1 million or imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or to both,” the order said.

INFLATION
In September 2011, President Mwai Kibaki signed into law a Bill that allowed Kenya to return to price control of essential commodities.

The practice was abandoned in the 1990s.

The law allows the Finance minister to set maximum prices of gazetted commodities upon consultation with the industry.

Consumer prices have gone up and inflation hit a 57-month high of 11.48 per cent in April, taking it beyond the Treasury’s preferred upper limit of 7.5 per cent.

POLITICAL
Rising prices of flour and other foods have become a headache for President Kenyatta as he seeks a second term.

National Super Alliance presidential flag-bearer Raila Odinga has used the high cost of living to portray the Jubilee government as incompetent.

Kenya plans to subsidise importation of up to about five million bags of maize.

Millers say the scarcity will persist until early next month when the staple hits shop shelves after the arrival of 445,000 bags of maize from Mexico.

INADEQUATE IMPORT
The maize is expected in Mombasa tomorrow. It will take up to eight days to be transported to millers and shops. 

The Cereal Millers Association said it had not met demand for the subsidised flour, terming the 335,000 bags of Mexican maize imported on May 9 inadequate.

Sugar, maize flour, beans and sukuma wiki prices have increased by 21.6 per cent, 31.2 per cent, 21.3 per cent and 63.2 per cent respectively in the last one year.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett said action would be taken against traders hoarding the flour.

CARTELS
Mr Bett asked consumers to identify traders and cartels doing so.

“The government is serious on this issue. All flour already subsidised must be sold at the recommended price,” the minister said.

“Consumers should help us on this. If you discover anyone going against the directive, report him or her to relevant authorities.”

The CS - who was in Kisii County - blamed the drought for the food shortage being witnessed in the country and exonerated his ministry.

RELIANCE ON RAIN
Mr Bett, however, assured Kenyans that every effort was being made to ensure the subsidised flour reached them on time.

He later visited Kenyenya Town where he advised Kenyans to diversify their agriculture instead of relying on rain.

He said Kenyans should also begin consuming cassava, banana, millet, barley and other foods and stop relying on maize.

“Had we been accustomed to consuming these foods, we would not be complaining,” the minister said.

FOOD PRODUCTION
He also assisted in donating hundreds of tissue culture avocados to farmers.

Mr Bett urged farmers to grow the avocados, saying the government would assist them get markets in and outside the country.

He said culture tissue seedlings were good at improving production.

The CS added that agriculture is an important component in fighting poverty.

Mr Bett asked Kenyans to desist from making the food crisis a political matter, saying the government is addressing the problem with the urgency it deserves.

“If there is a shortage, then it must be artificial and we are looking at it,” he said.

ELECTIONS
He urged area residents and Kenyans in general to be peaceful during campaigns and elections.

Kisii County Commissioner Samuel Njora warned politicians against misusing young people in their campaigns.

“The government is ready to take action,” he said.

He also urged the youth to embrace farming as a way to make a living.

Also at the function was Kisii Agriculture executive Vincent Sawe who said the devolved unit is committed to improving production.