Plan ahead, State advised on maize

The State has been asked to inform farmers in advance how much maize it plans to buy.

Leaders and maize producers, who met in Eldoret, also asked that farmers be assured of prices to avoid a crisis like the one of the purchase of last year's produce, which was intended for the Strategic Food Reserve. Payment to farmers has been delayed for more than nine months.

“In the next three months, farmers will embark on preparations for next season’s maize planting. As the Government plans to procure subsidised fertiliser, farmers should be informed what quantities of maize the Government will buy, the prices and when they should be paid,” said David Langat, a businessman.

Leaders present at the meeting included governors Jackson Mandago (Uasin Gishu) and Stephen Sang (Nandi), MPs David Sudi (Kapseret) and Alfred Keter (Nandi Hills) as well as ward representatives. The meeting was to raise funds for the burial of a local businessman, Benjamin Kiplimo, who died in a road accident.

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Mr Langat said the information would allow farmers to seek alternative markets for their grain in case of a surplus, adding that the national government should give counties the mandate to buy any additional maize.

The trader criticised the Government for holding on to farmers' produce and payment, noting that most farmers cultivated an average of one or two acres of maize, which they relied on as their sole source of income.

Farmers' produce

“It is not fair to see farmers unable to pay their children’s school fees or meet medical costs due to delays by the State to clear dues for their maize supplies through the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB),” Langat said.

He urged legislators to come up with laws to serve the interests of both the Government and farmers and help to end the perennial squabbles in the sub-sector.

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“Once farmers are assured of good prices and prompt payment, they will expand their enterprises. They should be able to make informed decisions, unlike the current situation where they deliver produce even without knowing when they will be paid."

Mr Keter said the State had started paying part of farmers' dues after he and Moiben MP Silas Tiren put pressure on the Government.  

Maize farmers in the region are currently harvesting this year's crop amid fears of a glut. According to the farmers, they are still holding over 500,000 bags of maize from last season’s harvest in their stores, yet the NCPB depots are full. As a result, the price of a 90-kg bag has dropped to about Sh1, 300.

In a recent interview, the Uasin Gishu agriculture executive, Samuel Yego, said the State should only buy maize it could promptly pay for instead of holding on to thousands of tonnes without compensating farmers.

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