Nairobi — The National Assembly Committee on Agriculture has directed Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi to furnish it with a full list of companies that received duty waivers to facilitate the importation of sugar, rice, and maize.
Committee Members led by John Mutunga (Tigania East) questioned the transparency of the recruitment process and adherence to various selection criteria.
MPs demanded full disclosure of companies of all companies involved in the recent imports.
Concerns were raised about the qualifications of companies as importers, pointing out a lack of clear criteria and the extension of importation through a Gazette Notice issued in October 2023.
Lawmakers however said they needed to see figures that demonstrate how importation has reduced the cost of sugar, maize, and rice for consumers, so far the duty waiver is only benefiting the importers.
“We need to see figures that demonstrate how importation has reduced the cost of sugar, maize, and rice for consumers, so far the duty waiver is only benefiting the importers,” said Kwanza MP Ferdinand Wanyonyi.
“What are the qualifications of a company as an importer? From what I can see there are no clear criteria?,” asked Nyando MP Jared Okello.
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Linturi explained that a total of 163,827 tonnes of sugar from Non-Comesa countries landed in Kenya between January and September.
He also revealed that a total of 156,957 tonnes of maize valued at Sh6.6 billion was imported between January and September while 707,107 tonnes of rice worth Sh37.6 billion was shipped into the country during the same period.
The CS told the House Committee that of the money Sh3.3 billion was in respect to maize importation, and Sh13.2 billion was for rice but failed to disclose the amounts lost in the importation of sugar.
“It is worth noting that there was no revenue lost but it was foregone to safeguard Kenyans. The foregone revenue is the percentage of duty normally charged on commodities delivered at 50 percent on maize and 35 percent or $200 per tonne whichever is more on rice,” he said.
The government’s decision allowed traders a six-month duty-free importation window to bring into the country 1.1 million metric tons of maize and 1.1 million metric tons of rice.
President William Ruto’s administration took the move after a prolonged drought between 2020 and 2022 – that was described as the worst in 40 years,- caused crop failure creating a national food deficit by about 34%.
Government statistics showed that maize production was lowest in 10 years at 34.4 million for 90 kg bags against a national consumption requirement of 50 million 90 kg bags, and rice production was below 100,000 tonnes against an annual demand of 950,000 tonnes.