Tuesday, February 3, 2009



By Peter Orengo

Agriculture Minister William Ruto has differed with Prime Minister Raila Odinga over the grain handling facility at the port of Mombasa.

Ruto on Monday declared that the Government would licence the construction of three other grain bulk handling facilities to minimise monopoly and corruption at the port.

"Licensing a third or even fourth grain handling facility would be good for this country as they will compete to offer quality services to Kenyans," Ruto said.

He said a committee responsible for infrastructure was already formulating ways for a second, and if possible, third grain handling facility.

Raila, who had cancelled the tender for the second bulk grain handling facility, has said that the decision is not to blame for the maize shortage.

In an exclusive interview by The Standard last week, Ruto said the current maize shortage was caused by inadequate strategic grain reserve provisions of four million bags, which had been maintained for the last 25 years as the population doubled.

He also said escalation of prices of farm inputs, especially fertiliser and fuel, had reduced acreage production and caused lower yields.

On Monday, Ruto said the Government’s order of 140,000 tonnes of fertilisers would help reduce prices.

Ruto said fertiliser prices were currently down at Sh3,000 from Sh6,000.

Meanwhile, low-income farmers who cannot afford farm inputs will now get them for free. Ruto on Monday announced this as part of the Government’s intervention to relieve the cost of production for poor farmers as well as up-scaling food production.

Speaking when he received fertiliser donated by the Egyptian Government, Ruto said although there were interventions to import food, the Government also seeks to encourage farmers to produce more food locally. He said the Government would identify needy farmers with one acre or below, but were unable to farm it.

"There are farmers who need help in terms of inputs to complement food security. They will be assisted with seeds and fertilisers," Ruto said.

He said the programme, which was underway, was being co-ordinated by district agricultural officers.

The Egyptian Government, through its ambassador Saher Hamza, donated 1,687 bags of DAP valued at Sh6.7 million.

Mr Hamza also pledged food donations of unknown value to drought-stricken areas to be given in two weeks time.