Maize prices have dropped below Sh5,000 for the first time in months as farmers in Uasin Gishu start harvesting the crop.
A majority of small-scale maize farmers have rushed to sell their harvest after the prices dropped from Sh5,500 in the last one month and currently selling between Sh4,500 and Sh4,800 per 90 kg bag.
The farmers in North Rift - the country’s grain basket, said the state should embark on replenishing the country’s food reserves and set producer prices to protect them (farmers) from exploitation from traders.
A section of farmers who spoke separately in Uasin Gishu County expressed fear of food insecurity in the country if the state does not step in and stabilize prices, to guard against the wanton sale of produce to traders who offer throw-away prices.
They urged the state to set producer price at Sh5,000 per 90 kg bag of current season maize to help farmers reap returns from costs incurred on expensive fertilizer, fuel, and other operational expenses during the season.
The farmers including Samuel Chemweno, Kimutai Kolum, Joab Kosgei, Paul Kerich, and Wilson Kangogo said it will be a disadvantage for maize farmers to sell current produce at below Sh 5,000 per bag owing to high production costs.
A spot check witnessed pickups and tractors ferry freshly harvested maize produce from parts of Moiben and Mois Bridge in Uasin Gishu County, which is reportedly being marketed to parts of Nairobi and Thika, even as prices dwindle as maize harvesting gains momentum in the region.
“As farmers who planted early embark on harvesting, maize prices have dropped from the recent Sh5,200 per 90 kg bag to Sh4,800. Brokers and traders have flocked parts of Uasin Gishu and Trans Nzoia and there is fear prices could further drop,” said Kolum.
Kolum appealed to the government to allocate funds for the purchase of farmers' supplies, and also pay promptly for deliveries to avoid the exploitation of producers.
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“Government facilities at NCPB have the capacity to receive and dry grains to recommended moisture content and preserve quality produce towards the country’s strategic reserves. The new leadership had pledged to address the sector,” said Kolum.
Chemweno noted that consumers in the region no longer go for sifted maize but instead purchase maize grains from farmers, which retails currently at Sh150 per 2 kg tin, which had hit Sh200 recently.
“The majority of those selling produce are small-scale producers who want to clear financial challenges including school fees, medical bills, and basic needs among others,” he said. He noted millers are slow in purchasing produce, saying there is currently fear that the government could reduce consumer prices.
“The current crop will produce better yield, and we urge the government to open stores without further delays. The state has also availed subsidized fertilizer and farmers could procure them in readiness for next season as they deliver produce,” added Chemweno.
Kosgei said despite the challenges of high production costs, the current crop did well, saying they expect good harvests.
“The crop currently in our farms will be so costly and should not cost anything below Sh 5,000 per bag. We bought fertilizer at over Sh6,500 while fuel was so costly for mechanized processes. We urge the government to be considerate,” he said.
He further stated that with the introduction of subsidized fertilizer for the next season, the state can review consumer prices from next year.
Ruth Kemboi, the Kenya National Farmers Federation, Uasin Gishu branch chairperson said the drought is widespread in some counties and urged the state to move in and procure farmers’ produce to support the needy regions and also restock strategic reserves.
“If the government does not intervene, the sale of produce will lead to shortages, hence leading to a circle of food insecurity in parts of the country,” she said.Mr Samuel Yego, the outgoing executive for Agriculture in Uasin Gishu noted that buyers of maize often lower prices when farmers start harvesting and increasing supplies.
“We project a good harvest at the end of the season in the county and hope for better prices. There is a need for government to put funds for the purchase of products in storage facilities and also to stabilize prices,” said Yego.