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The government was advised against releasing contaminated maize shipped into the country two years ago. Acting Industrialisation minister Amason Kingi told MPs investigating the controversial importation that..

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the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) was consistent in its advice that the moisture content of the maize consignments in two vessels exceeded Kenya’s acceptable levels of 13.5 per cent. Government was told the moisture content exceeded acceptable levels, Kingi tells MPs

“Kebs gave two options — that the cargo had to be shipped back or destroyed,” Mr Kingi told the joint parliamentary team comprising the committees on Agriculture, Foreign Relations and Health.

The moisture content of the maize in mv Siam Opal and mv Aguila was above 14 per cent.

“The position of Kebs was that we were not allowing anything beyond 13.5 per cent,” the minister stated.

However, the maize was still released after outgoing US ambassador Michael Ranneberger wrote to former Industrialisation minister Henry Kosgey declaring the consignment on mv Aguila as fit for human consumption.

The MPs were also told that the Agriculture ministry wrote to the National Cereals and Produce Board advising that importation of maize with moisture levels of up to 15 per cent was allowed at the time. The letter cited the then famine as justification.

Kebs had also been advised to clear the maize, but it stood its ground that the moisture content had to be below 13.5 per cent.

According to Mr Kingi, only Kebs standards can be relied on where the safety of any cargo is in question.

The session, chaired by Nyando MP Fred Outta, heard that 30,000 tonnes of the condemned maize, which had been declared by Kebs as “smelly, dump and rotten” still made its way into the local market through millers.

“It never made its way to the NCPB silos,” Mr Kingi said of the amount that was part of the controversial consignment of maize.

Also under investigation before the committee is contradicting information contained in a letter by an alleged Kebs officer who claims to have witnessed the destruction of the condemned consignment.

Mr Outta said they had made considerable headway and collected damning information.

The team, chaired by Agriculture committee chairman John Mututho, was given a month to investigate the matter and report back to the House.

Also appearing before the joint committee yesterday were representatives of SGS — a pre-shipment inspection, verification, testing and certification company.

Their inspection report on mv Siam Opal, which was loaded in Houston, US, indicates the consignment contained maize with a moisture content of 14 per cent.

The consignment on mv Aguila also had the same moisture content.

The reports are dated March 10, 2009 and May 11, 2009.

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