The latest directive by President Uhuru Kenyatta to National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) to start buying maize has shone a ray of hope for farmers.
The directive comes as producers, basically in the North Rift region, the country’s grain basket, struggle with myriad challenges as prices continue to drop.
The NCPB will buy the maize from farmers at Sh2,500 per 90kg bag.
Farmers in the North Rift lauded the President’s order that the Strategic Food Reserve (SFR) purchases two million bags at the new price.
Most farmers are struggling to store fresh produce from last season as well as those harvested in the previous 2017 season, but was not exhaustively bought by the cereals board.
According to Kenya Farmers Association (KFA), farmers in North Rift still have over 500,000 bags of maize from the previous season and with last year’s harvests, they continue to incur huge costs to preserve them against attacks from weevils and rodents.
Thursday’s presidential directive comes after months of unresolved complaints from farmers, who objected to the initial Sh2,300 price announced by SFR. The farmers had said the price was not commensurate with production costs that continue to skyrocket.
The farmers said they appreciated the decision to buy maize but urged the government to increase the amount to be bought from the set two million bags, saying it will stabilise prices and prevent a glut.
“It will be ideal if the state increases purchase to four million bags because even as the President stated, we had a bumper harvest to a tune of 46 million bags,” said KFA director Kipkorir Menjo.
“The set amount of two million bags is low compared to the productivity levels witnessed across the country. In Uasin Gishu and Trans Nzoia counties, farmers have been producing over 10 million bags of maize.”
Menjo said buying centres should be opened to get rid of constant queues witnessed in most depots.
The farmers, who spoke in Eldoret, said even as they plan to supply their produce, the state should pay promptly to avert the previous challenges experienced by most farmers who are yet to be paid for their 2017 deliveries. They also urged the state to work closely with counties during the distribution of farm inputs. The farmers said only a few people have been benefiting from the process, as unscrupulous traders have been taking advantage. Jackson Kwambai, a farmer in Moiben, urged government officials to be keen when receiving maize from individuals so that traders are not prioritised at the expense of farmers as it happened last year.
“We do not want a repeat of what happened in 2018 where brokers were given priority over genuine farmers who have toiled in the fields. Chiefs and extension officers should also verify the acreage and details of every farmer in their locality,” said Kwambai.