Maize Saga Sinks DP Ruto’s Rift Valley Popularity

William Ruto

The maize crisis facing farmers especially in Rift Valley is shaping into a political storm with damaging political consequences for Deputy President William Ruto, according to a local media.

At the centre of the storm are simmering claims that the Deputy President is among the beneficiaries or has done little to address the cartels that flooded the market with imported maize — some of whom were paid promptly at the expense of genuine famers.

It is emerging that farmers in Uasin Gishu, Nandi, Trans Nzoia, Bungoma, parts of Kericho, Bomet and Narok believe that Ruto, who was Minister for Agriculture in the Grand Coaltion government, has abandoned them and done little to politically resolve the crisis.

On Friday vocal Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter and Tiren linked two companies allegedly associated with a top Jubilee official to the maize crisis in the country.

At a press conference at Parliament Buildings, they named EverGreen and Koilel as some the companies used to import huge consignments of maize on behalf of the government official.

A local media could not independently establish the ownership of the companies which according to Keter were among the companies accorded preferential treatment in delivering maize and promptly receiving payment from the troubled National Cereals and Produce Board.

South and North Rift regions have more than one million farmers who had a bumper harvest this year after a long period but the prices dropped to an all-time low of about Sh1200 per 90kg bag. This they say, is far below Sh2,248 used to produce one 50kg bag.

Farmers claim those responsible for the crisis are either senior government officials or businessmen close to the DP.

Callers to vernacular radio stations broadcasting in Kalenjin have been complaining that the leadership of the region has abandoned them.

Others are questioning why Uhuru and Ruto forced the leadership of the Agriculture committee from Moiben MP Silas Tiren to Adan Ali whom they say is doing little to save the agriculture sector.

“Where is the chairman of Agriculture committee? We are suffering and they are not intervening. Tiren was removed but you can see he is trying his best to speak for the farmers,” charged one Edwin Kibet, a farmer from South Rift.

Kipkorir Menjo, a director of the Kenya Farmers Association representing the Rift Valley region, said farmers are angry with the Jubilee administration for their tribulations in the last five years.

Menjo said majority of residents of the region backed Jubilee in the last three elections but farmers’ expectations have not been met.

“The farmers feel betrayed because the government which they fully backed has not been keen on addressing their concerns,” said Menjo.

Being a native of the region, Menjo says Ruto knows the challenges which farmers go through and should be on the forefront of pushing for sound policies for the sector.

“For example Kenya is a signatory to the Maputo Declaration which stipulates that the government should allocate ten percent of the national budget to the agriculture sector,” Menjo said.

Another farmer, Paul Kibet, said Ruto has let down farmers yet he holds an influential position in government.

“For the first time ever farmers have been forced to wait for almost a year to get payment from the NCPB yet Ruto is the deputy president,” said Kibet, accusing the DP of being among Jubilee leaders who have been giving farmers false promises.

Another leading farmer from the region, Chepkok Moira, said the Jubilee regime had failed farmers.

“Even the elected leaders abandoned farmers and some teamed up with cartels that have been frustrating us”, said Moira.


The legislators also claimed the same people behind the controversial imports are now on the ground discouraging farmers from maize production to create an artificial shortage to force the government to import more grains.

“Some of the cartels have now created a narrative that the maize in silos is spoilt to create artificial shortage so that they import again. Some have started a campaign telling farmers to diversify so that there will always be shortage for them to import,” said Keter.

They claimed that those who caused the current situation are surrounding the President and urged him to make good his assurance to farmers.

“We are only depending on the President. The rest are part of the problem and are behind the diversification campaign meant to discourage farmers from producing maize.”

Tiren challenged Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri to be clear on whether maize was really imported from Mexico. They claimed some were paid without supplying any maize to the NCPB and demanded that Kiunjuri publishes beneficiaries of the Sh7 billion government maize subsidy.

“We have few people who imported maize and they should be held responsible. People should carry their own crosses. We are telling the CS to tell Kenyans who the importers are or he resigns,” Tiren said.

“They are trying to cover-up that three-quarters of maize is spoilt. We want an audit report to determine if the maize was really imported,” he added.

The lawmakers also questioned the whereabouts of Sh100 million, part of the Sh1.4 billion the President directed should be paid to farmers.

They claimed farmers have only been paid Sh1.3 billion.

“Even after the President has talked so harsh still they slash money meant for farmers,” Tiren said.


Last month, during the Senate sittings in Uasin Gishu county, grumbling farmers were told that “those responsible for messing up the maize farming in Kenya are their own in government.”

“Wale wanatukula ni wetu …our children are not going to school. Who is this can cartel that government doesn’t know?” the agitated farmers told a Senate ad hoc committee looking into the maize crisis at Eldoret Town Hall.

About 4,000 farmers took maize to National Cereals and Produce Board depots but local farmers but priority was given to selected suppliers who were paid within 14 to 21 of delivery.

Traders and millers took advantage of a duty free window gazetted by Treasury CS Henry Rotich to import surplus maize which choked the market for locally produced corn.

The duty-free maize imports were allowed to address a biting shortage that had seen the price of maize flour shoot up to almost Sh200 per 2kg.

Rotich would again extend duty waiver period for white maize which was to expire on July 31 to September 30, 2017 and yellow maize from August 31 to June 30, 2018.

The gazette notice stipulated the quantities and quality of yellow maize to be imported but not on the white maize.

Traders took advantage of the blanket notice to import large quantities of white maize, some of which was eventually irregularly sold to NCPB by importers posing as farmers. The import waiver was restricted to millers.

Over 1,734,487 tones of maize was imported during the period.

On Thursday when he appeared before a Senate committee, Kiunjuri said all NCPB depots across the country were full and the government was neither receiving nor releasing the maize.

He told the committee chaired by Uasin Gishu senator Margaret Kamar that claims worth Sh429 million demanded by 74 famers were under investigations by a multi agency vetting committee as they could not match the authorized quantities.

Another 44 farmers claiming Sh217 million had collected verification forms but did not return them to their respective depots.

Kiunjuri who was hard pressed to explain the delay in paying local farmers yet in 2017/2018 financial year, the government had targeted to purchase 2 million bags of 90kgs at a cost of 6 billion.

The Star. 

About the author

Cyprian, Is Nyakundi

Cyprian is a blogger who has an interest in politics, news, current affairs, people and anything that is of interest to society. My aim is to inform and update readers with the most accurate information.







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