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Farmers cry foul as NCPB cuts maize prices by Sh150 per bag

BUSINESS NEWS
By Stephen Rutto | February 28th 2021

National Assembly Agriculture Committee Chairman Silas Tiren (right), flanked by maize farmers from North Rift, address the press at the Eldoret NCPB branch yesterday. [Peter Ochieng, Standard]

Maize farmers are up in arms after the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) reduced the price of produce per 90kg bag from Sh2,700 to Sh2,550.

Farmers from North Rift said they only discovered that the price had been reduced by Sh150 when they delivered maize at the NCPB depot in Eldoret.

They said the decision was made unilaterally and without notice.

Since December, farmers in the region have been selling produce to the state-owned board at Sh2,700 – a price they say was approved by the Ministry of Agriculture.

The farmers, who met National Assembly Agriculture Committee Chairman Silas Tiren in Eldoret, said it was unfair for NCPB to unilaterally reduce the price against what they termed a promise to review it upwards to Sh3,000.

David Chepsiya, a farmer from Moiben Constituency, said the new price will negatively affect preparations for the 2021 planting season.

Chepsiya said several lorries were lining up to deliver maize when the news on price reduction was conveyed to them by NCPB staff.

“We were in the process of delivering maize when we were asked to pause. We didn’t know what was going on. Suddenly, we were told the price has been reduced from Sh2,700 to Sh2,550. As farmers, we feel duped,” he said.

“The price reduction has been done at the wrong time. This is a time that the cost of farm inputs and fuel has skyrocketed.”

Another farmer, Samuel Birech, said the cost of fertiliser has shot up from Sh3,000 to Sh3,200 per 50kg bag, and the new maize price will not enable them meet the cost of fertiliser and cultivation.

“It was our hope that the government would protect maize farmers this year. We were shocked that a government agency can make a decision to reduce the maize price,” said Mr Birech.

Yusuf Keitany lauded the government for stopping cartels from selling imported maize to NCPB and asked President Uhuru Kenyatta to intervene on the price.

“We were expecting to be awarded an increased pay of Sh3,000 per bag.

“We read mischief in the new pricing. It is unfair that farmers were not notified,” Mr Keitany said.

Kenya Farmers Association director Kipkorir Menjo said the prices may have been reduced following importation of maize from neighbouring countries, which has reduced demand for the produce.

Mr Tiren said his committee was not aware of the price changes. The lawmaker said he heard about it from farmers, but upon enquiry, he was informed by NCPB management that the decision was informed by a maize glut in the market.

The Moiben MP said he would meet Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya tomorrow to establish whether his ministry was involved in the price review.

“We want to know why this is happening when reforms in the maize sector are underway,” he said.

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