The exit of National Cereal and Produce Board chief executive, Newton Terer, is the first pointer that all is not well at the corporation mandated to buy produce from farmers.
At the heart of it are cartels that have turned maize farmers into a frustrated lot as money meant to buy their produce and subsidized fertilizer is given to companies associated with bigwigs.
Already, the Principal Secretary for agriculture Richard Lesiyampe has announced the suspension of the Lake, Western, North and South Rift managers to allow investigations into malpractices at the board.
The board is currently grappling with a fertiliser scandal, where officials have been conniving with unscrupulous people to repackage the subsidised commodity for commercial sale. The subsidised fertiliser is sold to farmers at Sh1,800 a bag against market cost of Sh3,500.
“We asked Terer questions on how things happened under his watch, and he opted to resign. But he will still have to face the board and answer questions,” said PS State Department Agriculture, in the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries.
“Consequently, as a board, we decided that all the three regional managers, of Western Region, North Rift and South Rift are hereby suspended until full investigations and audit are conducted,” said Dr Lesiyampe. This decision was arrived at after incidences of diversion of subsidised fertiliser, which had been entrusted to NCPB, were reported.
As Kenya was making a deal with Uganda to buy 6.6 million bags of maize from the neighboring country, unscrupulous Kenyan traders rushed to Uganda and bought lots of maize at a paltry Ksh.2,000 per bag and sold them to NCPB.
It is suspected that some NCPB officials, after rejecting maize from Kenyan farmers, they bought from the traders at exorbitant prices ranging between Ksh.3,000 and Ksh.3,200.
NCPB, which has been paying Sh3,200 per 90 kilogramme bag, stopped buying maize from growers two months back citing their stores are full, locking out farmers’ grain.
Mr Terer, who had started his second term at the grain handler last year, is said to have opted to resign before being fired for failing to vet grain that was bought by the agency, locking thousands of genuine farmers out.
The Agriculture Ministry sources say eight traders have been paid Ksh.1.9 billion in the last three or so months alone, money the ministry says would have paid close to 4,000 farmers.
Mr Terer has been replaced with Mr. Albin Sang as CEO in acting capacity for three months as the unearthing of the maize and fertiliser scandal starts.