The government is aware of the cartels operating in the maize industry, this goes without saying.
As a farmer, when I wrote the article how growing maize in Kenya will make you a pauper two years ago, I got backlash from Nairobi people because they rightly believed that farming must be profitable because it is our staple food. Yet on the ground, the farmer was being slaughtered by cartels. It is now clear that the collapse of the maize industry was being executed from high offices disguised as maize cartels.
It is also clear that those people we are calling cartels are influential enough to cause the Agriculture CS Mr. Kiunjuri sleepless nights after the order from the president to name them.
A farmer, attending the Senate meetings in the north rift wondered aloud (“kwani cartel ni Mbwa Mwitu”) “are these cartels hyenas” that operate in the night only and cannot be pinpointed during the day. Another farmer in the same meeting pointed out that these were our own leaders eating their own people.
Some people think that the collapse of the maize industry is as a result of the reckless importation of maize as approved by the government in the last two years. However, it has not been one stroke in the back of the proverbial horse, there have been many strokes that we have overlooked.
First there was the fertilizer plant mooted in the 1970’s that never kicked off and the government continued paying the cartels to the chagrin of the Auditor General who in 2017 said “It is a matter of concern that a total of Sh6.3 billion was incurred on a project which did not take off and against which no value for money was achieved,” The Auditor-General said the money, wired out to the collapsed Ken-Ren Chemical and Fertilizers, include Sh5.4 billion for principal repayment and Sh887 million covered interest.
This fertilizer plant was important because it would have reduced the cost of inputs and therefore enable farmers to produce the staple food much more cheaply and compete with their counterparts in the COMESA region.
Cartels we happy that this plant failed and exploited the weaknesses in the import process to bring in substandard and fake fertilizer that did not only reduce yields for farmers but also poisoned the lands.
Next, the government stepped into the space to subsidize fertilizer. It has now emerged that the subsidized fertilizer is substandard and most farmers are shying away from it. These same farmers are not aware that due to the complacency of Kenya Bureau of Standards and corruption instigated by cartels, even the fertilizer they are buying from some regular Stockists is fake.
Cartels are hungry mongrels, they never get satisfied until they have eaten the whole industry to the ground.
Eating fertilizer could not satisfy the cartels, so they turned to maize itself by piling pressure on corrupt government officials to allow unregulated import of maize. At NCPB, they got a fast-track lane to deliver the maize at the expense of genuine farmers who had to wait for days on end and eventually had to return their maize to their stores when the NCPB silos got full.
Yet the president wondered aloud, who are these farmers farming maize worth 280 million in Kenya were? Wasn’t he pointing to the cartels?
Now, the war on killing the industry has been stepped up a notch with calls for diversification so as to allow the cartels import maize in peace. They are aware that importation of maize is capital intensive and logistics are very prohibitive for the common Mwananchi hence they will monopolize easily and rake in billions with the import trade.
Which country advocates for the killing of its own local staple food production in favor of importation. Which one? Show me one in this world? In fact, most countries subsidize the production of their staple food so that they can have some control over the supply situation to cushion their weakest citizens from starvation.
I implore the CS to move in and save the maize industry. He should look at it not from the farmers perspective, but rather from the citizens’ eyes and learn about how several governments were brought down in India due to shortages or exorbitant prices of their beloved onions. Maize is our staple. One guy said you cannot eat white ants with avocado, therefore instead of killing the growing of maize, let us support its growing by strengthening the input supply chain process to enable our farmers to grow it profitably for the benefit of all.
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