Fear of low yields as maize farmers yet to prepare farms

Trucks and tractors queue to deliver maize at the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) at the Eldoret depot. [Kevin Tunoi, Standard]

Delayed land preparation ahead of the long rains is likely to affect maize yields at the end of this season.

Experts in the crop sector have warned of drastic fall in maize harvests due to the expected delay in planting.

This comes even as farmers continue to line up to deliver produce to the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB).

Most maize farmers are yet to sell their produce, get money to till their farms and procure seeds and fertiliser for planting. The national government is yet to start buying last season’s crops in most depots, putting farmers in an awkward position.

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Maize is currently being received only in the Eldoret regional depot and at Moi’s Bridge in Uasin Gishu County, with farmers who have supplied the NCPB still waiting for payment.

Untimely planting

In previous years, farmers would start to prepare their farms as early as January, but this time round, they are yet to start the process due to lack of money.

“The delayed land preparation and untimely planting will affect yields. Most farmers are not even sure whether they will plant,” says Dennis Ndiwa, an expert in the sector.

For a month now, Frederick Rono has been queuing at the Kitale NCPB depot, hoping to sell his maize. He has to incur costs to keep his grains safe as he waits for the depot to open its doors.

A hired truck is loaded with 300 bags, which Rono expects to sell to the board and raise money to enable him hire tractors to till his farm and plan the planting season.

Rono is a worried man and his hopes to prepare his land and buy inputs have been shattered by the delay by the government to buy and pay for his produce as officials continue to vet farmers.

The farmer is expected to bear the cost of the truck - which he hires from a local transporter - daily.

He told Saturday Standard about the frustration he has endured for a couple of weeks as he queues at the depot with no signs of the board opening soon to buy the maize.

“I have camped here for a month now. I don’t know when the board will start buying my maize. I am worried I will not have time to prepare my land ahead of the planting season. I will spend a lot to pay for the truck,” lamented Rono. 

He is among many maize farmers who have pitched tent at the depot to deliver maize. 

Some of the frustrated farmers are disposing of their crops at local millers and middlemen for as low as Sh1,500 per 90-kilo bag.

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