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High production costs push many out of maize farming

By Titus Too | Published Thu, February 15th 2018 at 00:00, Updated February 14th 2018 at 23:18 GMT +3
Stella Karugi inspects her stunted maize crop at her Kanoga farm in Karia village within Nyeri town constituency, January 18, 2018. [Photo by Mose Sammy/Standard]

Farmers in parts of the Rift Valley are abandoning maize production due to high costs.

Some are growing other crops while others, especially small-scale farmers, have opted to lease their farms out.

An acre is leased for between Sh10,000 and Sh15,000 per planting season. Those who spoke to The Standard said they preferred to lease their farms than tend crops for little or no returns.

Unpredictable farm input prices, weather patterns and costs of production are among the factors pushing farmers out of maize production.

In the past, they have also accused the National Cereals and Produce Board of paying poorly for maize.

Over the years, the farmers have also been pushing the State agency to offer them other services, including transport and drying of maize, to ease production costs.

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“The returns from maize cultivation are very low due to high operation costs. Seeds and fertilisers are also expensive, and unpredictable weather patterns do not guarantee a harvest,” said Kibiwot Tarus, a farmer in Moiben.

"The cost of leasing out an acre ranges from between Sh10,000 and Sh12,000. I distribute the money to meet my financial obligations and life goes on. It is better than taking care of maize the entire season and getting nothing in return.”

But even finding someone to lease the land is not easy as many are afraid of the operational costs of maize production, according to Mr Tarus.

"However, when you are paid, it is clean money that can be budgeted for a year. This is better than planting and waiting,” he said.

Paul Marus, a large-scale farmer, has been leasing farms from residents in Uasin Gishu and Trans Nzoia counties.

"I lease from small-scale farmers, most of who are often away from their farms. For good returns, I ensure that I am around throughout the season. Timing is also key for planting, application of fertiliser and harvesting to minimise losses,” he said.

"Maize production is labour-intensive with minimal returns. We toil a lot but the Government is not doing enough to give us subsidies.”

Thomas Korgoren, another large-scale farmer, urged the Government to address challenges facing the sector.

“The cost of living is already high. Poverty is aggravated when families are unable to produce food,” he said.

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