State officials under fire over food crisis

Business Daily Kenya:  Members of the National Assembly’s Agriculture Committee yesterday accused the government of failing to blow the whi...

Business Daily Kenya: 

Agriculture CS Willy Bett with his Principal Secretary Richard Lesiyampe when they appeared before Agriculture committee of the National Assembly yesterday. Photo/SAMUEL KARIUKI

Members of the National Assembly’s Agriculture Committee yesterday accused the government of failing to blow the whistle early enough over deteriorating food situation in the country.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett, who appeared before the committee accompanied by the ministry’s top officials to answer queries regarding maize crisis admitted they knew by May the country was going to face a food deficit.

“The food situation in the country was stable up to May, but, we were also aware that we had erratic rains last year which continued to the part of the First Quarter of this year,” Bett told the Committee. He said the short rains season (between October and January) were so erratic that they affected almost 80 per cent of the second season crop.

“Whenever we have a shortage, we replenish our stocks with crossborder supplies, but due to the drought in the region, we didn’t. Ugandan maize had been bought by non-governmental organisations and taken to South Sudan,” the CS said.

In early December 2016, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisations (FAO) published satellite pictures of the drought alert in 23 counties that was advancing into alarm stage.

Earlier in October, Tegemeo Institute had projected a grim picture of maize in Kenya from surveys carried between February and September 2016.

Researchers from the institute further said, the country would require another nine million 90 kg bags of maize between May and July 2017 when maize growing areas start to harvest, to cushion consumers from a predicted shortage.

But in the projections covering six to nine months, the researchers at the Institute further warned the situation was already grim, and would worsen in the face of a biting drought. Meteorological experts had already predicted that, the country would likely experience Lanina towards the end of the year 2016.

And by January 2017 according to the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA), the number of people in need of relief assistance in Kenya rose from 1.3 million in August 2016 to 2.7 million, following the below-average performance of the 2016 short rains.

On 10 February, the Government declared a national drought emergency, with 23 of 47 counties affected. In January, Bett said maize crop production was expected to drop there was enough maize to feed the country for five months up to the end of this month.

With all this information, the government is therefore under pressure to explain why it raised the alarm over the maize crisis in the country late yet at its disposal were reports from various drought and food projections and alerts spread across the year.

Florence Mutua, a member of the Committee asked why the government did not take requisite action to save the situation if it knew drought was the reason for the shortage.

And from surveys, the ministry also learnt that some large scale farmers and traders were holding to their stocks, purposely to speculate on the prices. When all this was apparent that it would be difficult even to import, in April, President Uhuru Kenyatta declared the crisis a national disaster.

The post State officials under fire over food crisis appeared first on Mediamax Network Limited.

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