KENYA – A report by the taskforce appointed last year to explore ways of averting maize shortage in Kenya has recommended privatisation of the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) to improve efficiency of the agency.

The team proposes that NCPB should be split into a commercial and Government services wing to enable the agency better handle challenges bedeviling it, a move that will see the government reduce its stake at NCPB.

The taskforce was gazetted last year, through a directive issued by President Uhuru Kenyatta, to review under-performance in the maize industry. It was chaired by the Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mwangi Kiunjuri.

The team was to examine the policy, legal regulatory and institutional framework of the maize industry and make recommendations. It was also tasked to identify challenges and make proposals necessary to streamline the sector.

If the proposals are adopted, 80 per cent of NCPB operations will be controlled by the private sector, while the Government will run 20 per cent of the board’s operations, a report by the Standard reveals.

The team also proposed an increase of the strategic grain reserve from the current 4 million to 6 million bags, in what could see the agency purchase more maize from farmers.

“To make NCPB a viable institution, it should be privatised and restructured into a commercial enterprise.

“This will stop it from relying wholly on the Government for funding and ensure effective allocation of resources, tasks, responsibilities, authorities and accountability,” reads part of the recommendations.

“The task-force recommends that the Strategic Grain Reserve Trust Fund be converted to a parastatal to enhance its autonomy and efficiency.”

In addition, the team has recommended that each county develops a register of its farmers, culminating into development for an aggregate national register.

It also wants the agency to be the sole importer of reserve maize and fertiliser in consultation with the Strategic Food Reserve Trust in a bid to stabilise prices.

The report is also pushing for zero rating of all agrochemicals and subsequent removal of levies and taxes on agricultural machinery.

The recommendations, if implemented, could potentially unlock current challenges in the sector.

Among the challenges identified include inadequate funding, political interference and mismanagement, which the committee noted had diminished farmers’ returns on investment.