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Agency wants NCPB to release Sh 11 billion for maize purchase

By Titus Too | December 12th 2019
Maize silos and driers at the Eldoret National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) depot. [File, Standard]

Maize producers who harvested current season crop as early as October are staring at post-harvest losses due to high humid conditions and effects of pests as National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) stores remain closed.

Some farmers have also suspended harvesting due to heavy rains in parts of the North Rift.

Chairman of the state’s Strategic Food Reserves (SFR) board,  Dr Noah Wekesa, yesterday said NCPB should produce Sh11 billion from the sale of old stock to facilitate purchase of new produce from farmers.

“We are ready as a board to announce producer prices for the current season crop but cannot do it without resources. We want the money before end of this week so that we can buy four million bags of 90 kgs each from small scale farmers,” said Dr Wekesa.

Wekesa noted that the Treasury did not make any budgetary allocations for purchase of SFR maize, hence they would only require funds from sale of old stock to replenish stores for the country’s food security.

“We will start maize purchase from farmers as soon as NCPB channels proceeds to our account. Further delays will affect our work as a board and also frustrate small scale farmers,” said Wekesa.

But NCPB, when contacted, said it is not aware of the claims made by the SFR board, even as the wrangles pose a risk to farmers.

“We are not aware of the reasons the SFR board is giving. We are waiting for instructions from the Government to tell us when to start buying produce from farmers,” said Mr Titus Maiyo, the NCPB Corporate Affairs manager who did not give further details.

Wekesa said NCPB will have itself to blame once farmers protest delays in purchase of produce as the year ends.

At the same time, as heavy rains pound most parts of the country, the NCPB has opened its stores with grain driers to support farmers in drying grains to curb losses.

Through its website, the board asked farmers to utilize its services to prevent losses and aflatoxin effects on their harvested produce under the current high humid conditions.

“Take advantage of our drying services in Moi’s Bridge, Kitale, Bungoma, Eldoret, Nakuru, Kisumu, Narok, Kilgoris and Nairobi Silos,” read the notice.

Farmers are expected to pay a fee of Sh39.4 per 90kg bag per moisture drop to the recommended 13.5 percent.

Producers who wish to store grain at NCPB facilities for future sale will be charged Sh17.40 per 90kg bag per month.

Christopher Kiptum, a large scale maize farmer welcomed the move allowing farmers to use NCPB driers.

“We are in a desperate situation and have been slowly harvesting maize in low quantities since heavy rains have rendered mechanised harvesting impossible. Transport from the farms has also been affected,” said Kiptum who is yet to harvest 200 acres of maize.

Most farmers complain that the charges are high and have urged the board to charge a flat rate per 90kg bag.

They have also appeal to both national and county governments to consider making mobile driers available to ease access for many.

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