Trucks queue outside closed NCPB maize depots

Lorries and tractors carrying maize queue outside the NCPB depot in Eldoret. Some have been there for almost a week now. [Kevin Tunoi, Standard]
Long queues continue to build up outside national cereals depots two weeks after President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered them to be opened.

Frustrated farmers, who have been in the queue for almost a week now, threatened to barricade roads to protest delays in implementing the presidential directive to the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) to start buying maize.

“If NCPB stores will still be closed by tomorrow, we will stage protests and barricade roads in Eldoret, Moi's Bridge and Kitale,” said one frustrated farmer.

A spot check by The Standard showed several lorries, tractors and pick-ups loaded with maize harvested late last year lining up outside Eldoret and Moi’s Bridge depots.

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At the NCPB regional depot in Eldoret, the queue stretched for more than a kilometre and grew rapidly. Maize purchases had not commenced by the time we left.

Donald Sang, from Kiplombe in Uasin Gishu County, said some farmers had camped in the queue for several days.

"Some drivers and loaders have been queuing for about a week yet there is neither water nor sanitary facilities by the roadside. This poses health risks. The Government should act with speed and purchase our produce," said Sang.

President Kenyatta directed that NCPB depots be opened and two million 90kg bags of maize be purchased at Sh2,500 each.

The farmers accused NCPB of defying a presidential directive.

“The President gave the directive in the presence of Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich and Agriculture ministry is also aware of it, why delay further purchase of maize? Who is fooling who?” posed Kipkorir Menjo, the Kenya Farmers Association (KFA) director.

Menjo said no activity had started at the board's stores and called on the President to intervene to ensure farmers who harvested produce between September and October last year deliver produce.

“We had a meeting last week of farmers representatives and a maize task force led by Trans Nzoia Governor Patrick Khaemba and Strategic Food Reserve board chair Dr Noah Wekesa and were assured that maize purchase would begin yesterday,” said Menjo.

He said the board should have concluded purchasing maize and embark on distribution of subsidised fertilizer in readiness for the next planting season at the end of next month.

But the cereals board has assured farmers it is ready to start buying their produce.

“We are ready and only need the necessary resources and a list of genuine farmers,” he said.

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