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Farmers’ patience runs out as NCPB stores remain shut

By Titus Too | December 25th 2019
Maize farmers harvesting their crops at a farm in Trans Nzoia County. [Osinde Obare, Standard]

Maize farmers are getting impatient with the closure of National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) stores.

Some small-scale farmers harvested produce as early as October while some large-scale producers are still harvesting after heavy rains interrupted mechanised operations because tractors could not move in the farms.

Farmers who spoke to The Standard said most of them have been prompted to sell to millers and traders to meet their financial needs.

They said failure by the government through the Strategic Grain Reserve Oversight Board (SFROB) to set producer prices for the current season had led to exploitation of farmers who sold immediately to curb post-harvest losses as a result of high humid conditions.

“January is already approaching and it seems there is no hope the government will buy this season’s produce. NCPB stores are normally opened around November,” said Tom Korgoren, a farmer in Uasin Gishu.

Mr Korgoren regretted that the government has failed to announce maize producer prices to stabilise the market. This, he said, had led millers and traders to buy at the prices they wish, thus exploiting farmers who lack alternative market.

Christopher Kiptum, a large-scale maize farmer, resorted to manually harvesting his produce as heavy rains continue to pound the region.

“We had witnessed a dry spell over the last three days but it is again raining today. I am still harvesting manually and it has taken me so long to conclude,” Mr Kiptum said yesterday.

Paul Kerich, a farmer from Kipkaren in Nandi, said the majority of maize farmers rely on proceeds to educate their children and also plan for the next planting cycle.

“Most farmers may not be in a position to pay fees when schools reopen from January. NCPB stores should have received farmers’ supplies in SFR so that producers can use proceeds to prepare their farms for the next season,” said Mr Kerich.

Kimutai Kolum said farmers had met the SFR board and gave out recommendations that produce be bought at Sh3,600 per 90kg bag.

“We are still waiting after we gave out our proposals. If the government delays further, it will miss out in mopping stocks from farmers since most of them are currently selling produce to millers and middlemen who purchase at about Sh3,000 per 90kg bag,” said Mr Kolum. The SFR recently pointed a finger at NCPB, saying it should produce proceeds from sale of stocks to facilitate purchase of new stocks from farmers.

“We will start maize purchase from farmers as soon as NCPB channels Sh11 billion from sale of old stock to our account. Further delays will affect our work as a board and also frustrate small scale farmers,” said Noah Wekesa, the SFR board chairman in a recent interview with The Standard.

Dr Wekesa then added: “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 the end of this week so that we can buy four million bags of 90 kilos each from small scale farmers.”

Sources hinted to The Standard that the head of Public Service and Secretary to the Cabinet Joseph Kinyua last Friday convened a meeting between the Ministry of Agriculture, NCPB and SFROB at Harambee House to, among other issues, resolve the stalemate within the government agencies.

The source hinted that the meeting reviewed and discussed general activities, among them sale of maize to millers and opening of NCPB stores to enable farmers dry and store their produce to curb post harvest losses.

According to the source, NCPB chair Mutea Iringo, Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri and Wekesa attended the Friday meeting.

Titus Maiyo, the NCPB Corporate Communications manager yesterday confirmed that the Friday meeting took place.

Mr Maiyo said NCPB was waiting for instructions from the government on when to start maize purchases, adding that the board was ready to receive supplies from farmers.

Maiyo also said the board was currently assisting farmers in offering drying services to avoid loss of produce during the current humid conditions.

“We urge farmers to utilise drying services in NCPB stores to curb post-harvest losses. Farmers who wish to store grains for future sale can also store in respective NCPB stores across the country,” he said.

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