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Kenya seeks funds from parliament to feed the hungry
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16:47, January 21, 2009

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The Kenyan government has sought parliament's approval to authorize a 7.9 billion shilling (about 99 million U.S. dollars) loan to the National Cereals and Produce Board to support the efforts to contain food crisis in the country.

Acting finance minister John Michuki said the money being sourced from the U.S. Department of Agriculture is meant for the purchase of maize and rice, adding that the loan will be guaranteed by the Kenyan government.

"The importation of maize and rice is urgently required to alleviate the current shortage in the domestic market," Michuki told lawmakers in Nairobi late on Tuesday.

The food crisis has been blamed on underproduction by small-scale farmers, climate change and disruption of the main planting season following last year's post-election crisis.

Some 10 million Kenyans need food aid because of shortages and the government has appealed for emergency funds to deal with the matter.

Last week, President Mwai Kibaki appealed for 463 million U.S. dollars to tackle the emergency food crisis in Kenya where millions likely go to bed hungry due to crop failure and 2007 political turmoil.

Michuki said the money would be paid within a year, from the date the consignment is received, through the Kenya Commercial Bank.

"If approved, the amount guaranteed by the government would rise from the current 513,200 million dollars to 600 million dollars. The maximum amount of debt that can be guaranteed by the government is 1 billion dollars," the minister said.

The Members of Parliament have however demanded a ministerial statement from the ministry of agriculture to address the food crisis. The statement from the Agriculture is expected by Thursday, according to local news reports.

Kenya, sub-Saharan Africa's fifth-largest corn producer, says it has sufficient corn only to last until February.

Kenya, the East Africa's biggest economy, is still recovering from the post 2007 election violence which left over a thousand people dead. The country was one of the first to be hit by riots as a result of hikes in food prices last year.

Some 1,000 people died in the post-election clashes and another 350,000 people fled their homes.

President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga signed a power-sharing deal last February to bring an end to the violence.


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