Maize prices drop as harvesting starts

Sammy Chemweno and Timothy Kibiwott prepare their maize farm in Uasin Gishu County on October 13, 2022. [Peter Ochieng, Standard]

Maize prices have dropped drastically below Sh5,000 for a 90Kg (kilogramme) bag for the first time in months as farmers in Kenya's food basket, Uasin Gishu start harvesting the crop.

A majority of small-scale maize farmers have rushed to sell their harvest after the prices dropped from Sh5,500 in the last month to between Sh4,500 and Sh4,800 per 90kg bag.

The farmers in North Rift - the country's grain basket, now want the State to replenish the country's food reserves and set producer prices to protect maize growers from exploitation by traders and middlemen.

A section of farmers who spoke to The Standard in Uasin Gishu County expressed fears of food insecurity in the country if the State does not step in to stabilise prices, to guard against the wanton sale of produce to traders who offer low prices.

They urged the State to set producer price at Sh5,000 per 90kg bag of current season maize to enable farmers to recoup their profits - having incurred huge costs - including expensive fertiliser, fuel and other operational expenses during the season.

The farmers including Samuel Chemweno, Kimutai Kolum, Joab Kosgei, Paul Kerich and Wilson Kangogo said it will be a disadvantage to maize farmers to sell current produce at below Sh5,000 per bag owing to high production costs.

A spot-check witnessed pickups and tractors ferrying freshly harvested maize produce from parts of Moiben and Mois Bridge in Uasin Gishu County, which is reportedly being marketed to parts of Nairobi and Thika, even as prices dwindle as maize harvesting gains momentum in the region.

"As farmers who planted early embark on harvesting, maize prices have dropped from the recent Sh5,200 per 90 kg bag to Sh4,800. Brokers and traders have flocked parts of Uasin Gishu and Trans Nzoia and there is fear prices could further drop," said Kolum.

Kolum appealed to the government to allocate funds for the purchase of farmers' supplies, and also pay promptly for deliveries to avoid the exploitation of producers.

"Government facilities at the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) can receive and dry grains to recommended moisture content and preserve quality produce towards the country's strategic reserves. The new leadership had pledged to address the sector," said Kolum.

Mr Chemweno noted that consumers in the region no longer go for sifted maize but instead purchase maize grains from farmers, which retails currently at Sh150 per 2kg tin, which had hit Sh200 recently.

"The majority of those selling produce are small-scale producers who want to clear financial challenges including school fees, medical bills and basic needs among others," he said.

He noted millers are slow in purchasing produce, saying there is currently fear that the government could reduce consumer prices.

"We bought fertiliser at over Sh6,500 while fuel was so costly for mechanised processes. We urge the government to be considerate," he said.

The Kenya National Farmers Federation Uasin Gishu branch chairperson Ruth Kemboi urged the State to move in and procure farmers' produce to support the needy regions and also restock strategic reserves.

Mr Samuel Yego, the outgoing executive for Agriculture in Uasin Gishu noted that buyers of maize often lower prices when farmers start harvesting and increasing supplies.

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