The National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) is in the spotlight once again over poor grain storage leading to aflatoxin contamination.
Investigations by the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) indicate that the country risks losing grain worth some Sh7.6 billion due contamination arising from poor conditions in which they were stored at the NCPB silos.
This is shocking and demands drastic action with the culprits punished.
NCPB is the main buyer and stockist of grains. Last year, it bought some six million bags of maize from farmers for storage and eventual sale to traders.
But with NCPB’s poor storage facilities, millions of bags bought with public money and stored at the board’s godowns have been adulterated, hence unfit for consumption.
That waste is humongous and cannot be wished away. Not that NCPB is not aware of this.
It knows pretty well the conditions for proper storage and the dangers inherent in exposing the foodstuff badly. Yet it fails to observe those standards.
For one, the government has lost billions of taxpayers’ shillings through sheer negligence by the cereals board, which is not acceptable.
At present, the country is faced with dire financial constraints and the accent is prudence and frugality in management of public resources.
A situation where public money is used to buy cereals then allowed to go bad due to poor storage is offensive and those culpable should be punished.
Lately, debate has been unfolding over the prevalence of aflatoxin contamination of grains and the consequential risks on health.
NCPB has the greatest responsibility of guarding against grain adulteration because that poses serious threat to grain consumers. Those huge stocks of bad maize have to be destroyed to avoid circulation.
With large consignments of maize bound to be destroyed, there is a risk of the country facing grain shortage in the coming months.
Constrained grain market is bad for the consumers as prices soar, forcing them to dig deep into their pockets to secure the commodity.
That is bad for the economy. It is a sure cause for food insecurity and inherent perils.
The whole question of grain storage has been discussed several times with concerns raised about Agriculture ministries and various concerned agencies are not pulling their weight.
They have failed to monitor and take action on transgressions. But now is the moment to deal with crisis decisively.
For a start, NCPB should destroy the contaminated maize and ensure that it does not enter the market.
Secondly, the board must improve quality and three, those NCPB officials responsible for grain contamination must face the law.