In what could further spell doom in the country’s food security next year, farmers have embarked on selling green maize to make profits.
With only about two months to the next harvest, most farmers in North Rift have opted to sell green maize since it has better returns.
Further, they say, the sale of green maize, has reduced additional costs of labour on harvesting, transporting, storage, and post-harvest costs.
In Nandi, green maize traders flock to the region, ferrying the produce with pick-ups and trucks to urban centres including Eldoret, Kisumu and Nairobi.
Farmers who spoke to The Standard said they want to take advantage to earn good returns and prepare to clear their farms for short-season food crops.
The current price of a 2kg sifted flour is retailing at Sh 220, while a 2kg container of dry grain (Korogoro) retails in parts of the North Rift at between Sh180 and Sh 200, with a buyer adding Sh20 to a mill.
Isaac Kirwa, a farmer from Kaptumo village in Nandi, said that green maize prices have doubled to over Sh 100, 000 from the initial Sh 50, 000 per acre.
“It is the only season that as farmers, we must earn maximum profit by selling the green maize. Maize production cost has gone up due to unaffordable inputs and we can’t let this chance go,” he stated.
Mr Kirwa said he sold his one and half acres of maize plantation to green maize dealers operating in Eldoret and Nairobi, generating over Sh130,000.
“Green maize has more profit than dry grains. It minimizes losses and is less laborious,” stated Mr Kirwa.
“Nandi receives relatively high rainfall throughout the year, the farmers practise timely planting at the beginning of every season when the region receives intermittent rains between December and January,” he added.
Farmers living alongside water catchment areas in Aldai and Mosop maize growing zones harvest green maize from June of every year.
Gilbert Kipmutai, a resident of Komondi, said the failure of the government to provide subsidy fertilizer at the beginning of the year made the cost of maize production shoot.
“ As a small-scale farmer, I have been forced to sell my green maize to make profits. Further, I want to take advantage of the prevailing rainy season to prepare my farm for another planting season,” he said.
Rehema Koech, a green maize vendor in Kapsabet town, said business is thriving with boiled or roasted maize going for Sh30 in the local market and along the Kisumu-Eldoret highway.
“Green maize business is lucrative. Compared to three months ago, the demand has shot. We are also supplying some of the green maize to hotels and local eateries,” Mrs Koech said.
Kenya Dairy Farmers Federation (KDFF) Chairman, Stanley Ngombe, said that due to the high cost of inputs, there was under application of fertiliser with farmers anticipating poor harvests of maize at maturity, hence preferring to sell green maize.
“The CS for Agriculture, Peter Munya is not cognizant of the planting calendar. He promised subsidies that came in small quantities and the farmers were caught up by the season. He again promised subsidised top dressing fertiliser that came in small quantities until maize flowered without application,” he said.
Ngombe added that the farmers have been forced to take advantage since the demand for green maize is also high.
“We advised the farmers to sell green maize and fetch better prices because waiting to mature, will lead to poor harvests. Farmers also use fodder to feed their livestock, cushioning them from current prices of feeds,” said Ngombe.
High cost of living
Zachariah Kuto, the Kenya National Federation of Framers Chair in Nandi, said the high cost of living has forced the farmers to sell green maize to cater for basic commodities and also, minimize losses.
“Food prices have escalated and the rate at which the farmers in the region are selling out the commodities poses the risk of further food shortage next year. The government should provide subsidy fertilizer to enhance food security in the country,” he stated.
Kiplimo Lagat, Nandi County Agriculture CEC said: “We are in a free market economy and farmers have the freedom to choose to sell green maize if it is more profitable. Nobody has contracted them to supply dry maize.”
Dr Lagat added producers can take advantage based on existing market opportunities.
“Food security is worsening due to pedestrian policies being adopted by the government. The national fertiliser subsidy programme was suspended, yet it was an important component of guaranteeing food self-sufficiency,” stated Lagat.