Your days are numbered, CS warns hoarders of maize flour
The government has formed a multi-agency team to crack down on unscrupulous traders hoarding subsidised maize flour.
State Department for Crops Development and Agricultural Research Principal Secretary Francis Owino says the country had enough maize flour and stocks following the agreement signed with millers.
He said the shortage in parts of the country was artificial.
Elsewhere, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya warned millers against hoarding the subsidised commodity and said stern action would be taken against people who are found culpable.
Speaking in Nandi Hills where he accompanied Azimio-One Kenya presidential candidate Raila Odinga and running-mate Martha Karua at a campaign tour, Munya said Kenyans were still suffering because of the high cost of unga because after government announced the subsidy, some millers decided to hoard the product.
He disclosed that the government had started cracking down on individuals hoarding the flour and that suspects will be arrested and prosecuted from today.
“We reduced the prices for maize flour. Unfortunately, some millers have decided to hide them. As we speak now, the government is assessing where they are hiding this important product. We are going to take action against them. From tomorrow, Kenyans will see what is going on,” said Munya.
Speaking in Kisumu yesterday during an inspection tour of the boarded millers, Owino said some retailers were stockpiling the flour in anticipation of higher prices.
“This flour is meant for consumption not storage. We have enough stocks therefore just buy what is enough for you,” he said.
This, he said, was illegal, adding that surveillance teams had been dispatched across the country to bring to book those involved in hoarding of the commodity.
“We are going to engage all government machinery to ensure that all traders hoarding the subsidised maize flour are arrested and prosecuted,” he said.
Out of the Sh4 billion released by the government to facilitate the programme, Sh256.7 million, he said, had been paid to 122 millers to ensure Kenyans access maize flour at Sh100.
The money, the PS said, was expected to reflect the accounts of the millers today adding that an additional Sh500 million pending bills dating back to 2017 was also being processed.
Owino attributed the shortage of the commodity in supermarkets to credit arrangements which were unfriendly to the millers.
“Supermarkets don’t buy maize flour in cash. They are supplied to sell and pay after 45 days. Therefore millers are finding it difficult to supply the subsidized maize flour to them,” he said.
The government, Owino said, was engaging the umbrella body of supermarkets to shorten the duration of payment so that Kenyans can access the product.
He said the initial challenges experienced during the launch of the programme had been addressed and urged members of the public to report any trader selling the flour above Sh100.
The four-week subsidy, he said, had gone a long way in cushioning Kenyans against the high prices of the commodity and expressed optimism that the prices would stabilise soon.
“We have enough stocks and we are also expecting to harvest soon and this will help stabilise the prices,” he said.
He said the government will review the programne after the four weeks and make a decision on the way forward to ensure Kenyans continue to have access to the commodity.
Two weeks ago, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced that his government will use Sh8 billion under a stimulus package to reduce maize flour prices by a half in an effort to cushion Kenyans from the soaring food prices.
The subsidy package suspends the Railway Development Levy and Import Declaration Fee charged on imported maize to Kenya, and subsidises the retail price of maize flour by Sh105 for every 2-kilogram packet.
“This is meant to lower the cost of living for the vulnerable households as we look for a sustainable solution to the recurrent rising price of unga every election,” Uhuru said.