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Wheat farmers panic as heavy rains pound North Rift

BUSINESS
By Titus Too | August 13th 2016

Wheat farmers in the North Rift region are staring at losses due to stem rust, a fungal disease accelerated by high humid conditions, as heavy rains pound most parts of the country.

The region has over the past few weeks experienced heavy rain that has dampened hopes of a bumper harvest. "Our wheat farms will require additional costs for sprays to prevent effects of stem rust that affects wheat during cold conditions," said Robert Kimoso, a wheat farmer from Moiben, Uasin Gishu County.

Mr Kimoso noted that the heavy rains in some occasions have been accompanied by strong winds and hailstones thus interfering with crop development, which may result to poor yields at the end of the season. Farmers are set to harvest the crop next month.

"With the heavy rains, the soils have loosened thus affecting mechanical operations including spraying in large scale farms. Most farmers have resorted to hand-spraying and the operations are adding up to the cost of production and will consume our expected profits," he said.

Stephen Ruto, also a wheat farmer in Moiben said most wheat farms were at maturing stages but expressed fear of adverse effects due to the ongoing rains.

"This condition leads to stunted growth and we have also experienced growth of weeds in our farms and unless farmers resort to frequent sprays, yields will be low due to the effects of stem rust. We expect Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture to effectively address perennial challenges facing farmers," said Ruto.

Moiben MP Mr Silah Tiren, who is also a member of the Parliamentary Committee on agriculture said that heavy rainfall was not expected and expressed optimism that it will subside.

The MP said millers had set wheat producer prices at Sh3,000 per 90 kg bag but said as a committee, they will prevail on them to consider increasing it to Sh3,500 to enable farmers achieve better returns from their investment owing to increased operational costs.

He also said the Government has allocated adequate funds to research institutions to investigate emerging diseases and also come up with solutions to address the challenges. Last year, Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease (MLND), whose effects cut yields was reported in parts of the country.

Uasin Gishu County is the leading cereals producers in the country and predominantly contributes in maize and wheat. Tiren asked farmers to expand their agricultural enterprises and turn the sector into a profitable agribusiness to boost their standards of living.

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