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State yields to Sh3,000 price for 90 kilogramme bag of maize

By Otiato Guguyu | December 18th 2018
Lorries queue outside the National Cereals and Produce Board Eldoret depot to deliver maize under the warehouse receipt system . [Kevin Tunoi, Standard]

Farmers will get Sh3,000 for a 90-kg bag of maize in an improved offer from the Government which has committed to buying two million bags to boost its strategic reserves.

Last year, the State paid Sh3,200 for a 90-kg bag compared with Sh3,000 that was paid to the growers in 2016.

The Government had initially proposed to pay farmers Sh2,300 for the current crop season.

The announcement by the Agriculture and Research Principal Secretary Hamadi Boga has put to an end the debate between government, politicians, and farmers.

“There is a lot of politics in the maize debate when we said Sh2,500, the price was still moved to Sh3,000. But when you look at production through the satellite imagery, even if we go to Sh5,000 a bag, the farmers will still not break even because of the low yield,” said Prof Boga.

The Strategic Grain Reserve had earlier on, set the price at Sh2,300 which was affirmed by the cabinet.

“The Cabinet today approved the purchase of two million bags of maize from farmers at the price of Sh2,300 per 90 kg bag.

The maize will be purchased through the National Cereals and Produce Board,” State House said in a tweet then. However, politician challenged this move, noting that the task force on maize was not consulted when the price was set up.

The Agriculture PS, however, said the choice of the initial price was scientific as established by a research conducted by Tegemeo Institute.

“The Government expects a total production of 46 million bags which was competing with regional imports sold at an average of Sh1,500 which is the ideal price according to scientific research by Tegemeo Institute,” he said.

 To break even

The PS said even with the improved offer, maize farmers will still struggle to break even because of the low production per acre.

Kenyan farmers produce an average of 12 bags per acre or three tonnes per hectare, which the PS says could be improved with the right seed variety.

He was speaking at the meeting of agriculture experts to harmonise regulation on seed varieties in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) region.

The 21-member region wants to streamline laws that would make the release of seed variety quicker. According to the Regulatory Affairs Manager at African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) Francis Nang’ayo, it currently takes almost two years to release a variety in one country which makes delivery of good seed variety take too long.

Also, good maize variety released in Kenya or Uganda cannot be immediately deployed and used in Zambia or Ethiopia.

Prof Boga said that despite strides made in Kenya to develop new seed technologies, there were still rampant cases where variety was misapplied.

“There was a case of a farmer in Kiambu who had planted 614 variety which has been developed 40 years ago by Kalro for Kitale. It has a strong growth but needs 150 days of rainfall yet Kiambu gets 90 days. So it is the right seed in the wrong place,” Prof Boga said.

Kenya is a maize deficit country and needs the Strategic Grain Reserve to store sufficient grain for release into the market in the event that supplies fall.

However, the condition of the maize in State silos has been questioned after the Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture Mwangi Kiunjuri said that up to 60 per cent of cereals in strategic grains reserve is unfit for consumption.

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