The National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) could lose Sh8.5 billion worth of maize in its strategic food reserve (SFR) that is already yellowing and browning in the silos less than one year after it was bought from farmers.
NCPB acting managing director Alvin Sang told the Senate that the SFR board, which is required to make critical decisions such as selling the stock, is currently dysfunctional, leaving the 3.6 million bags of maize at the risk of going to waste.
“We are in the process of removing the maize that is yellowing or browning in the silos, but we want the SFR to give us authority to repackage and create space,” said Mr Sang, who was accompanied by Crop Development principal secretary Hamadi Boya said.
Mr Sang told the committee chaired by Uasin Gishu Senator Margaret Kamar that the NCPB requires funds to upgrade its silos and keep maize for more than six months. “We have advised them (SFR) to sell the maize in Kisumu because there is market there. Unfortunately it cannot be sold at Sh3,200 as it was bought because market price has dropped to between Sh1,500 to Sh2,000,” he said.
Mr Sang said the 3,626,973 bags of maize in the SFR on April 18, 2018 included 300,000 bags of maize that was imported from Mexico in the last crop season.
A total of 10.5 million bags of maize were imported from Mexico during the duty free maize importation window between May and December 2017.
Mr Sang said NCPB has so far paid farmers Sh8,053,320,000 leaving Sh3,575,854,400 as pending bills of which Sh1.4 billion will be paid as soon as the multi-agency team working on the issue identities the real farmers.
“Some of the maize we have in our silos has stayed for more than the recommended period of six months. The maize we are holding is about nine months old but is becoming yellowish and brownish, making it unattractive to millers who may not buy it,” Mr Sang told an ad-hoc committee that is investigating importation of maize during last year’s duty free window that opened in July and closed in December 2017.
Mr Sang said lack of a functional SFR board and its failure to meet has rendered NCPB incapable of removing and packaging maize in the silos for storage in other locations.
The NCPB said it has empty space at several of its 110 stores countrywide with a capacity to hold 21.52 million bags.
The board also has silos in the grain basket region and Nairobi with a storage capacity of 3,090,000 bags — excluding Cypress Bins of about 1.5 million 90kg bags.
Mr Sang said the SFR has to get Cabinet approval to dispose of the maize at lower than Sh3,200.
“This will take long and it’s a dilemma for the Ministry of Devolution. The maize is still good for human consumption, but the colour has changed,” said Mr Sang.
He said NCPB wants the Agriculture ministry to allow the board to buy gunny bags and move the maize to empty silos across the country given that SFR must foot the bill of the bags and guide NCPB on where the maize should be moved to.
Mr Sang said Agriculture secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri has committed to filling the vacant board posts to enable the agency fulfil its mandate.