National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) exhausted resources it allocated for commercial maize purchase and is not currently buying maize from farmers.
“We have used up the Sh 1.2 billion which was part of the money received from the National Treasury and it was divided to various depots across the country and many of them have now exhausted their allocation and are no longer buying maize,” NCPB Chairman Mutea Iringo has said.
He explained that they are now waiting for the balance of Sh 4 billion to continue with the maize buying process and other commercial trading purposes including purchase of beans, green grams, rice and fertilizer.
Iringo who spoke after touring Nakuru Silo said so far, NCPB has bought 675,000 bags of 50 Kgs (375,000 bags of 90 Kg bags) from farmers at Sh2700 per bag.
He further said that Food Balance Sheet committee will be meeting soon to discuss on the status of the food situation in the country and advice on the various measures and interventions to take where necessary.
The Committee was set up last year to oversee accounting and monitor the country’s food supply pattern including institutionalizing reforms to eliminate overlapping roles, conflicts between different government agencies to better respond to changing food demand
“This will include the available maize stock in the country and to inform the next step with regards to the National Food Reserve stock level,” Iringo said.
NCPB, according to the Chairman has fully embraced reforms under (Agriculture Sector Transformation and Growth Strategy (ASTGS) and vision 2030 and the board diversified its commercial activities to trade not only in traditional grains like maize but also in cereals such as beans, green grams, rice, sorghum, millet and other foods like powder milk, canned beef and fish to boost food production in various parts of the country and enhance national food security.
Meanwhile on the controversy surrounding NCPB Debts, the chairman explained that a meeting between the Agriculture and Treasury Cabinet Secretaries will soon be held to resolve a 5-years KCB bank debt of Sh7.3 billion.
The amount, according to Iringo, had been brought about after the Cereal Board had taken a loan of Sh 4.2 billion from 2016-2018 for subsidized fertilizers which has now accrued interest.
“We had bought manure at Sh3400 but later sold the same at subsidized rate of between sh1500 and Sh1800 where the national government was to cater for the difference but now with the accumulation of Sh 3 billion making it a debt of Sh7.3 billion,” he said.
The huge debts owed by the ministry and the KCB bank loan, he further explained, was attracting over Sh3million per day and Sh110 million per month and this, he noted, is a very big challenge.
He noted that they have held several meetings with the ministry to get the debts paid and also piled pressure through the cabinet secretary and principal secretary to get the parastatals to pay.
“All debts owed by private individuals have been reduced through outsourcing of debt collectors. We have also tasked our depots managers through a performance contract to ensure debts are collected,” he added.
He acknowledged that as a food Agency, they are still grappling with the unpaid debts which are weighing them down by the ministry of agriculture and related few parastatals who are yet to repay the debts.
As at the end of last year, the NCPB had been owed debts to the tune of Sh18.1 billion by Government agencies which had been incurred over years for grain handling services and other amenities.
By Wangari Ndirangu