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Wheat farmers struggle to sell crop at fair prices

BUSINESS
By Robert Kiplagat | February 8th 2016

Wheat farmers in Narok County have said a lack of market is forcing them to sell their produce to brokers at throw-away prices.

As harvesting gets underway in Mau-Narok, the more than 3,000 wheat farmers in the region have cited the high costs of production, harvesting and transportation, along with a lack of reliable markets, as their major challenges.

The farmers, led by spokesmen David ole Ikaiyo, Wilson Kishoian and Amos Keshe, added that the National Cereals and Produce Board’s (NCPB) failure to buy their produce was aggravating their problems.

“Currently, there are only two major buyers of our produce, but sometimes when they decline to buy, brokers take advantage and buy our wheat for as low as Sh1,500 to Sh2,000 per 90-kilogramme bag,” said Mr ole Ikayo.

Storage facilities

Major millers buy their produce at Sh2,800, which the small-scale farmers — who grow wheat on 10 to 15 acres — said is still too low. They want the county and national governments to facilitate the entry of more buyers into the market to boost buying prices.

“To dry a 90-kilo bag of wheat costs Sh40 per bag. We then have to hire a lorry at around Sh20,000 to Sh30,000 to transport the produce from Mau-Narok to the Narok NCPB depot. The costs increase by Sh10,000 as we wait for potential buyers. When we finally sell the crop, we get a paltry Sh1,000 per bag, which is a loss,” said Mr Kishoian.

He also asked county officials to improve the region’s roads to reduce transportation costs and maintain the quality of produce. Kishoian said farmers are forced to spend a lot of time navigating poor roads, which exposes their produce to the elements. This increases moisture content, compromising quality.

And to make up for a lack of storage facilities, farmers said they hire lorries to act as stores in their farms at a cost of Sh300 per bag.

However, Narok NCPB Depot Manager Anthony Tanui said the depot, which has the capacity to hold 357,000 90kg bags, has empty silos for farmers and millers to store wheat.

“Farmers have the option of storing their produce at Sh17 per bag per month with us, instead of selling it to brokers,” he said.

He added that NCPB is currently not buying the crop from farmers, “as what we do is provide services, such as drying, cleaning and storage”.

More than three million 90kg bags of wheat were harvested in Narok County last year, up from 1.8 million bags the previous year. The increase was attributed to favourable weather and the timely delivery of subsidised fertiliser. 

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