Review State food policy
The government appears to be prescribing the wrong cure for Kenya’s chronic food security challenges. Controlling food produce prices, like the Ministry of Agriculture is proposing to do through the Crops (Food Crops) Regulations, 2018, won’t solve the sector’s problems, including low production, poor distribution and dumping.Nothing demonstrates the folly of such a policy better than the perennial confusion around maize production, where the government has often intervened to fix prices for supplies to the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) or the Strategic Grain Reserve.Maize farmers in the country’s grain basket of the North Rift have always complained about getting a raw deal from a monopolistic market where the alternative to a corruption-ridden State buyer is often an industry cartel of predatory and often politically-connected middlemen.It hasn’t helped that even when there is no maize deficit in the country, the government has allowed imports, driving down prices and further hurting local farmers. There is more than enough proof that the agriculture sector will be better off offering more choices to both growers and consumers. And, this can only be achieved by keeping to the liberalised market principles and attracting more private sector players who can improve efficiency in distribution.