The government has launched the distribution of mobile maize-drying machines to curb post-harvest losses in the wake of heavy rains across the county.
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi flagged off 100-grain driers to 15 counties.
The farmers had a bumper maize harvest, thanks to getting discounted fertiliser early in the long rainy season.
Mr Linturi praised the farmers for using government subsidies well to produce food. He said that due to increased humidity from El Nino rains, the dryers will preserve the maize quality for consumption and protect farmers from losses.
The Cabinet secretary also revealed that the government, under the Grain Drying for Sustainable Post-Harvest Management Project, plans to support the National Cereals and Produce Boards (NCPBs) and Farmers’ Cooperatives and Community-Based Organizations with 200 grain dryers.
“This will be implemented in two phases. In phase 1, the government has procured 100-grain dryers to mitigate against post-harvest losses in 15 maize-growing counties,” said Linturi when he flagged off the dryers at Ziwa NCPB depot in Uasin Gishu County yesterday.
The mobile dryers, capable of drying up to seven tonnes of grain per hour, will be distributed to Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, Nakuru, Elgeyo Marakwet, Nandi, Bungoma, Kakamega, West Pokot, Narok, Kericho, Migori, Bomet, Baringo, Nyandarua, and Laikipia.
Linturi explained that the machines will be brought directly to the farmers in these areas.
This eliminates the need for farmers to incur additional transportation costs. The dryers will operate at a subsidised rate of Sh70 per 90-kg bag, ensuring that the grains are dried to the recommended standard of 13.5 per cent moisture content.
“Farmers invested and produced good yields this season following the distribution of subsidised fertilizer at Sh3,500 per 50 kg bag. As a government, we want to avoid any wastage in post-harvest losses. The government will support every initiative by farmers to guarantee food security,” he said.
The Cabinet secretary said that the government has set aside Sh4 billion to buy maize from farmers at NCPB depots, at Sh4,000 per 90kg bag.
“This is a price to stabilize the market and curb exploitation of farmers by middlemen. Farmers who are under financial pressure will sell at a minimum of Sh4,000. But those who have alternative better outlets are free to sell to traders,” he said.
Linturi also advised farmers that the Warehouse Receipting System (WRS) has been operationalized to offer storage for farmers who anticipate better produce prices in future.
At the same time, Linturi revealed that the government has advertised tenders for early procurement of subsidized fertilizer in readiness for next season’s planting.
“We will enhance early distribution of the inputs in the coming season. The national government will work with counties and farmers’ cooperatives to ensure farmers access them at stores within their proximity,” he said.
He said more than six million farmers had registered and the data had made it easy to plan and manage the sector more efficiently.
Linturi’s remarks came as farmers and leaders in Uasin Gishu urged the government to consider reviewing maize producer prices upwards.
Uasin Governor Governor Jonathan Bii, Senator Jackson Mandago, Soy MP David Kiplagat and other leaders said farmers struggle with high operation costs, hence they should earn better for their efforts.
“We expected to earn over Sh5,000 per 90kg bag. The government is offering us Sh4,000, yet we meet transport costs and Sh1,700 for aflatoxin tests, among others. We urge the state to review producer prices,” said Henry Mutai, a farmer at Soy.
Robert Kiptoo, a farmer from Mosoriot, said fuel costs have increased and Sh5,000 per 90kg bag of maize will be reasonable.
Mr Kiplagat hailed the government, saying: “Despite the global economic challenges, the government availed fertilizer subsidy, allocated funds for maize purchase and now dryers, which will minimize wastage of produced food from 25 per cent to zero per cent.”
Mr Bii said his administration will support the national government in distributing fertilizer to ensure it reaches all farmers in Uasin Gishu.
Mr Mandago, however, argued that the government should meet all costs, including transport, and pay farmers a net of Sh4,000 through NCPB.
NCPB Managing Director Joseph Kimote assured that farmers will receive payment within 72 hours of supply. The good harvest has been attributed to access to subsidized fertilizer and favourable weather conditions.
Benjamin Kimetto, a farmer from Kapsomboch in Soin/Sigowet constituency, celebrated a bountiful harvest of 62 bags of maize from his three-acre farm, as well as an additional 15 bags of sorghum.
“Government’s decision to reduce fertilizer price from Sh6,000 to Sh2,500 per 50kg bag enabled us to apply sufficient quantities during maize planting,” he said.
Bernard Chepkwony from Ainamoi constituency said his maize yield increased to 42 bags from one and a half acres up from 20 bags.
Kipkelion East MP Joseph Cherorot urged NCPB to establish stores closer to farmers and distribute subsidized fertiliser through cooperatives to ease access.
[Titus Too, Nikko Tanui and Gilbert Kimutai]