Listed total food company Unga Group Limited has welcomed cabinet approval to operationalise the recently promulgated Strategic Food Reserve Regulations, 2023, terming it as a step in the right direction.

The operationalisation of the Regulations Unga Group Managing Director Joseph Choge said will provide a strategic avenue to enhance national food security ideals while strengthening the local food commodity market.

The Operationalisation of the National Cereals and Produce Board (National Strategic Reserve) Regulations, 2023, with a base stock greater than 90,000 metric tons, or three months’ national food requirement of scheduled agricultural produce, Choge said, will help to provide price stability for staple foods.

He expressed optimism that the Government will consider expanding the National Strategic Food Reserve stocks to include locally sourced value-added pulses and cereals alongside Maize.

“At Unga Group, we welcome the Cabinet approval to operationalise the NCPB’s Strategic Food Reserve Regulations as this will provide predictability and price stability. The national food security goals must continue to be strategically handled to avoid unnecessary expenses such as expensive food subsidies in the hour of need,” Choge said.

He added, “As a private sector player and stakeholder committed to supporting the national food security ideals, we welcome this development even as we continue to petition the government to consider expanding the national food reserve base stock to cover other locally sourced food items, including pulses and cereals.”

Expanding the National Food Reserve beyond Maize base stock, Choge added, will also have a positive ripple effect on the national agricultural transformation goals. According to the Kenya Economic Survey 2023, the quantity of Maize imported rose to 793.8 thousand metric tonnes in 2022 against a local production base of 150.8 thousand metric tonnes.

“To a large extent, a functional National Strategic Reserve will play a key role in bridging the production deficit by providing a market for farmers produce at realistic, market-driven prices,” Choge said.

According to a Cabinet Despatch issued from State House Kakamega on Tuesday, the Cabinet also sanctioned the Warehouse receipt system’s expedited implementation. “Additionally, and in keeping with the imperative to realise Food Security, Cabinet authorised the operationalisation of the newly promulgated Strategic Food Reserve Regulations, 2023. Under the framework, the Government will purchase at least 1 Million bags of Maize to be maintained as part of our nation’s Strategic Food Reserve,” the Cabinet Despatch said.

By Fred Odanga Azelwa.