There has been a low turnout from farmers nearly three weeks after the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) announced it is ready to purchase maize for drying and storage.
NCPB North Rift Manager Gilbert Rotich said the Eldoret branch has purchased only 2,000 ninety-kilo bags of maize since the process was initiated on December 28 last year.
He said many farmers who got a bumper harvest might be reluctant to sell their maize right now.
“The supply of maize has not been as usual since most farmers have kept their produce, probably for speculation purposes that they might get higher prices later. But we want to urge farmers to take advantage of our wide network within the NCPB,” said Rotich.
He warned farmers that keeping the maize until a later date would mean additional costs, including fumigation and drying.
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“I want to inform farmers that as much as they would want to keep their produce awaiting higher prices, it is expensive to carry out fumigation, which the NCPB is committed to doing on their behalf. Cases of theft have also been witnessed in some instances,” said Rotich.
Unlike before when farmers would deliver their produce and wait for months to get their pay, Rotich said prompt payment has been enhanced, and that farmers would be paid within 24 hour of delivering their produce.
Within an hour
Further, small-scale maize farmers whose produce is worth less than Sh70,000 will be paid through M-pesa within one hour, he said.
“We earlier had a challenge of delayed payment, but I want to assure the farmers that payment is now prompt. We have paid the farmers who have since delivered their maize within 24 hours of delivery,” said Rotich.
In earlier interviews, farmers who spoke to Saturday Standard said they would rather sell their harvest to farm-gate buyers, traders in the informal market and millers who offer ready cash than storing the maize with the cereals board, not knowing when they will be paid.
“We want prompt payment to enable us to prepare for the next planting season and also meet our financial obligations, including fees now that schools have reopened,” said Jackson Kwambai, a farmer in Uasin Gishu.
The baseline price of at least Sh2,500 per 90kg bag was set by the government last month to encourage farmers to sell their maize, but most of them say the offer is below the cost of production.
Paul Sugut, another farmer, said he had decided to keep his 600 bags of maize until March as he is hoping for higher prices. He added that given the trend since October, he is optimistic prices will keep going rising.
Parliamentary Agriculture Committee Chair Silas Tiren asked maize farmers in Uasin Gishu and Trans Nzoia counties to be patient as the government holds talks to address the issue of maize prices.
“I know that maize farmers are not very happy with the Sh2,500 price per 90kg bag because it is below the cost of production, but we will continue to hold talks with the president and the Ministry of Agriculture to discuss a favourable price,” said Tiren, who is also the Moiben MP.