17 May 2017

Kenya: DP Ruto Rebuts Claims of 'Artificial Maize Shortage'

Photo: Francis Nderitu/The Nation
A couple at the Ronald Ngala branch of Tuskys Supermarket in Nairobi purchase a packet of maize flour on May 17, 2017.

Deputy President William Ruto Tuesday went full-throttle to defend the government's intervention in the maize shortage, debunking what he said were lies well told to criticise its solutions.

He rubbished claims that the government had colluded with private millers to create an 'artificial maize shortage' to create room for duty-free importation.

"I find it strange when our competitors ask: Why did the maize arrive so soon? I mean, really, is that a question we should be asking? . . . From where I sit I will look for the nearest person with the commodity I am looking for to sort out the challenge we have," the DP said in a live interview on Citizen TV on Tuesday night.

He laughed off suggestions that the government could have had a hand in the shortage.

"Do you sincerely believe that we can play that kind of game with a very serious issue like the lives of people? The food of the people. Don't you think that is dangerous?" he asked.

He went on to also point what he said was another lie: that the duty waiver for maize came five days ago.

"It is a flat lie. We announced duty waiver in April, and we asked importers to import maize. So it is realistic for any importer having realised that the government has opened duty free facility, and one month is realistic. It is not true that the maize arrived here in three days," he said.

"A narrative is being run that the duty free waiver for maize was three days ago."

TRIVIAL

So why did the maize arrive early, he was asked?

"I think really, we are being trivial, in my very honest submission. What we have at hand is Kenyans who want food. Our intervention as government is to get from wherever and supply maize to our millers so Kenyans can get it at an affordable price," the DP said.

He insisted that all the government had to do was to ensure that the maize was fit for human consumption.

On whether this was an 'artificial shortage', the DP termed the question as "unfair."

"The importer is not the government of Kenya. I work for the government of Kenya. I run the government of Kenya. Private persons run the business of selling and buying maize which I don't. Whoever imported this maize is available. Information I have is that this maize came from Mexico and there was a transshipment to South Africa, and then it came to Kenya," said the DP.

PRODUCTION

He said the government had subsidized fertilizer from Sh6, 000 to Sh1, 800, in what he said was a critical focus on production.

"The problem will be solved if we tackle the challenges of production. We need to produce more because prices are determined by the forces of supply and demand. The more we supply, we address the demand, and reduce the prices," he said.

He argued that Kenya imported duty-free maize in 2008, 2009, and 2011, a situation he said had changed since Jubilee took over, with 2015 recording the highest ever production at 42.5 million bags.

"Since we took office in 2013, we have not imported maize duty free. This year, we ran into problems because of the prolonged drought. And that is why we are here," the DP said, defending the late response, saying it was because "we did not expect it to extend this far."

He said that the multibillion Galana Kulalu project will soon be in full swing after a model farm is ready and the completion of a Sh40 billion dam.

He defended the government's development record, saying they had done all to deserve a second term.

ISOLATED KINGPIN

The Jubilee Party deputy party leader said that the government had made inroads at the Coast, Gusii, Western, while consolidating its own support bases, all he said will boost its 2017 re-election chances.

He argued that the team was ready for the elections and "will accept the will of the people of Kenya."

The DP described his friend-turned-bitter-foe Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto, now a principal in the Raila Odinga-led National Super Alliance as a loser who was seeking a soft landing spot in the opposition.

"Isaac Ruto is running away from a humiliating defeat in Bomet," he said.

He rubbished claims that he was an isolated "Rift Valley Kingpin."

"All the five Kanu MPs are with us now. All the senators in Rift Valley, except one support us. All the governors, except Isaac Ruto is with us. So who is isolated now? Is it me or them isolating themselves?" he asked.

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