Maize producers in the North Rift region have asked the government to direct the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) to open its stores and allow direct purchases of current season harvests.
Farmers currently harvesting their crops have expressed fears of the expected El Niño rains, saying it will be difficult for them to dry their produce during heavy rains.
The Kenya Meteorological Department had earlier warned of heavy downpours from October to December this year in many parts of the country as a result of the El Niño climate phenomenon.
The department stated that the long rains are expected to start in September and will continue until January next year in various counties, including the country’s grain basket regions of Uasin Gishu and Trans Nzoia.
Some farmers have also decried poor prices of maize offered by middlemen as the NCPB stores remain closed. The farmers want a price of at least Sh5,500 per 90-kilo bag of maize.
Thomas Boen, a large-scale farmer, said opening NCPB stores would help farmers get drying facilities offered by the State entity as well as aid in stopping the sale of maize produce to exploitative middlemen who have invaded the region.
“Most farmers have started harvesting their produce in fear of the anticipated heavy rains. However, drying the produce is a big challenge. Although we took advantage of the government’s subsidised fertilisers, and we are witnessing a bumper harvest, the middlemen have taken advantage of the farmers to the extent that some are selling maize at a throwaway price,” Boen stated.
He said the middlemen are out to fleece maize farmers in a scheme that he claims amounts to an invasion by cartels in the maize sector.
Boen lamented about millers and middlemen who, he claimed, are hiding under the guise of farmers’ produce having high aflatoxin levels to force farmers to sell their produce at throw-away prices.
“This is the greatest challenge that we are facing, and we are asking the President as well as the Agriculture cabinet secretary to intervene. We feel that this is a deliberate and well-cut-out tactic meant to subject hard-working farmers to losses,” argued Boen.
The farmers claimed that, contrary to claims by the buyers, their produce is good and is even bought by other buyers.
“We are asking our leaders to devise ways of finding a solution to this menace. We need to be told if indeed our produce contains high levels of aflatoxin and if so, what is bringing in the high levels,” added Boen.
He gave an example where he was forced to sell his 100 bags of maize produce for Sh4,000 per 90 kg bag after several refusals from millers.
The farmers also want the government to announce standardised prices for their produce and buy the produce directly and in the future regulate the product prices as it is done in neighbouring countries. They argued that they should not be left at the mercy of middlemen, urging NCPB to buy maize produce from farmers and thereafter the board can sell to millers to avoid further exploitation of the farmers.
“It would be better if the government aimed at providing more stable and secure markets for farmers as it will play a pivotal role in mitigating the distress faced by farmers and motivating us. We need a country where farmers are respected, protected and fairly compensated for their contribution to national food security,” David Some, another farmer, stated.
They argued that as much as most farmers benefited from the subsidised fertilisers which were sold at Sh3,500, other services and needs have been very costly.
“The farmers incur a lot of costs before the maize is ready for the market. The fuel prices have been very high throughout the year as well as the cost of spare parts, topdressing and shelling of produce and even the labour required. With all these costs factored in, and to ensure that farmers do not incur losses, we would appreciate at least Sh5,500 per 90-kilo bag of maize,” stated Some.
Jael Murgor said some farmers did not benefit from the subsidised fertiliser and were forced to purchase the inputs from retail shops at high prices.
“The process of getting the subsidised fertilisers proved hectic for some of us, forcing us to buy fertilisers at Sh7,000 per 50 kg bag. Some farmers, although registered, experienced delays in receipt of notifications to collect their fertilisers,” she lamented.
She noted that she would appreciate better maize prices of Sh8,000 per 90 kg bag, stating that any lower price would give her losses.
Murgor urged the government to conduct early preparations and ensure fertilisers are made available for the next season in good time.