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Is there a maize shortage or not?

On Wednesday, 7 March, NTV ran a story about a maize glut in the North Rift. According to the report, the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) was turning away farmers in the region who wanted to sell their maize to the government, saying the silos were full.

NCPB said it was emptying the silos by transporting the massive produce in the north Rift to government silos in Muhoroni and Kericho, to accommodate the remaining grain.

The report showed long queues of lorries which had spent weeks waiting to offload their maize. A farmer said they had been queuing for three and half weeks.

NCPB managing director Newton Terer told NTV that last year’s harvest was the largest in a decade.

“The last time we had a large intake of grain was in the season 2006-7. Based on the projections that we had received from the experts because of armyworm [attacks] it was not anticipated that we were going to receive produce to this extent,” he said.

And then on Tuesday, 13 March, the Daily Nation (p.29) carried a report titled, “Kenya in deal to buy 6.6m bags of Uganda maize to meet deficit.”

According to the report, Kenya will buy the maize at Shs2,050. “Local millers will have access to 600,000 tonnes of maize at $225 per tonne in what will plug a deficit of more than 5 million bags following poor weather last year,” the Nation reported.

NCPB managing director Terer confirmed the planned importation, saying the deal was negotiated between the Grain Council of Uganda and Cereal Millers Association with the support of NCPB and the Ministry of Industrialization.

On Wednesday, 14 March the Nation again reported (p.19) that, “More than 200 farmers have protested a move by the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) depot in Nakuru to suspend purchase of maize.”

The farmers who had been camping outside the premises for more than two weeks were taken aback upon finding a notice pinned on the gate indicating that the purchase of maize had been suspended indefinitely, the Nation reported.

“Nakuru NCPB silo manager Alfred Korir said the move followed a directive from the headquarters that required all farmers to get fresh verification from the Agriculture ministry.”

So, what exactly is going on? Is there a maize shortage in Kenya or a glut?

How come the Daily Nation and NTV, both owned by Nation Media Group, report conflicting stories about the maize situation in the country – yet they spoke to the same sources, NCPB officials?

Has journalism descended to merely reproducing what public officials say without question, even when what is said is clearly contradictory?

There is a big story here that needs to be told. And Nation Media Group doesn’t see it.

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