Senators have resolved to summon the Minister for Agriculture, Gérardine Mukeshimana, to explain why the country’s plan to store grains to cushion against famine is not being fully implemented.
Under the national grain strategic reserve programme, the Government committed to store 200,000 tonnes of grains (mainly maize) from the 2016-2017 harvest but senators said on Wednesday that most of the national granaries are empty.
This, they said, was noticed during a recent countrywide tour by senators on the standing committee on economic development and finance.
According to Senator Jacqueline Muhongayire, the chairperson of the committee, the ministry was not doing enough to achieve the objective.
Senators also expressed concern that over 100,000 tonnes of the 195,000 tonnes of grain the ministry says is in granaries are being kept by farmers, which the legislators criticised saying this was impossible to prove.
Besides, they added, the quality of grains stored at the household level cannot be trusted given the lack of post-harvesting handling skills at the grassroots.
The Government, senators says, should always ensure that there is enough grains to feed the country for at least three consecutive months during times of shortage of food.
Muhongayire said this would not be possible in the event that acute food shortage is experienced today.
“The Senate should summon the Minister to come and explain to the plenary what kind of concrete measures are in place to implement the national grain reserve programme,” she said.
Debate ensued after the presentation of the committee findings, with some senators wondering why they should summon the minister when members of the committee had already spoken to the ministry at the time they were compiling the report.
Others said it would not be appropriate to summon the minister since the prime minister, Edouard Ngirente, had just presented to the bicameral parliament government strategies to improve agriculture sector. The premier addressed parliament about the sector this week.
Senator Jean-Damascène Ntawukuriryayo backed the committee’s recommendation saying there are serious issues the minister needs to the Upper Chamber.
After the debate, Senate president Bernard Makuza put the matter to a vote and 20 out of 24 senators voted to summon the minister.
Cabinet ministers are summoned to the House through the Prime Minister’s Office.