House team to probe farmers’ woes
MPs will this week open an investigation into the fertiliser scandal that has denied farmers access to cheap inputs despite a Government subsidy.
The National Assembly Agriculture Committee will seek to find out why farmers cannot get subsidised fertiliser and the delayed payments for maize deliveries amounting to over Sh4 billion.
The committee, chaired by Mandera South MP Adan Ali Sheikh will visit Uasin Gishu, Trans Nzoia, and Nakuru counties on a fact-finding mission, in what farmers hope will lay to rest the ghost of maize and fertiliser politics in the region.
Targeted by the committee is the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) headed by Newton Terer and the Agriculture Development Corporation (ADC) headed by Richard Aiyabei.
There have been claims that well-connected cartels buy subsidised fertiliser from NCPB stores and sell it at exorbitant prices.
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Hurdles in maize deliveries, provision of quality seeds, and delayed payments will also feature during the tour that will run from April 5 to 8.
“We have divided ourselves into four groups that will traverse the various counties as we get to the bottom of the woes. There has been a lot of conflicting information in the public domain and we are now set to unearth the truth of what is actually happening in the maize sector. Much of the information that we have been getting from various stakeholders is conflicting, and the committee now wants to find out the truth,” said Sheikh.
“The committee cannot work on hearsay. We will be on a fact-finding mission on what has been doing the rounds in the media,” he added.
In Uasin Gishu and Trans Nzoia counties, the committee will inspect the NCPB stores to establish the amount of fertiliser there and the challenges encountered by farmers while delivering maize. The committee will also visit the ADC to establish if farmers have access to sufficient and good quality seeds.
Among those lined up for a session with the committee is NCPB regional manager Daniel Kodonyo and his ADC counterpart, Wilson Tunoi.
In Nakuru, the parliamentary team will interrogate claims of corruption against Pyrethrum Processing Company’s managing director Paul Lolwerikoi, whose home was raided by anti-corruption detectives two weeks ago.
Another team will visit Mombasa to confirm whether a ship has docked with adequate fertiliser supplies for farmers, as alleged by the Government.
“We have been told that there is a ship already there with fertiliser. We want to see if this is true…in Trans Nzoia, we have been told that fertiliser stores are empty. We want to know what is the truth,” said the chairman.
The Standard also established that Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri will appear before the committee next week to shed light on emerging issues in the agriculture sector.
The MPs’ visit to the country’s bread basket comes in the middle of the planting season and months after the red flag was raised regarding problems faced by farmers in the region.
The problems have been compounded by Government plans to import five million tonnes of maize from Uganda and inability to service loans owed to the Agricultural Finance Corporation (AFC).
“We want to get long-term solutions to problems facing the sector in the region. We expect the committee to tell us about loans owed by farmers and how they will tackle a myriad other problems such as shortage of subsidised fertiliser. We want farmers to apply for fertiliser before the planting season and specify the number of bags. There should be a list of genuine farmers,” said Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny.
Moiben MP Silas Tiren, a member of the team, claimed that farmers had been ‘neglected’ on many fronts, citing delayed payments and the armyworm menace.
“It is good for the committee to come down and listen to the challenges facing farmers. In our report we will also push for an increase of the agriculture budget from the current 3 per cent to 10 per cent,” said Mr Tiren.