State bars millers from importing wheat, prices up to Sh3,700 per bag

David Kilesi, a wheat farmer in Tipis in Narok North. [Robert Kiplagat, Standard]

The government has stopped millers from importing wheat, until local farmers exhaust their current stocks estimated at one million bags.

At the same time, the price of wheat has gone up from 3,200 per 90-kilogramme bag to Sh3,700, a major boost to farmers who had scaled down production due to challenges ranging from the high cost of production to climate change.

According to the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) Director-General Kello Harsama, the decision is aimed at protecting farmers.

Addressing wheat and barley farmers at a Narok hotel on Sunday, Mr Harsema said millers should first exhaust what is available locally before thinking of importing.

“Kenya produces almost one million bags annually and currently we still have 50 per cent of it in the farms. We agreed with farmers and the Ministry that no miller will be allowed to bring in wheat from outside until they buy from our farmers,” said Harsama.

He added that farmers only produce 10 per cent of the local demand for wheat and that with the new prices, they will be motivated to increase production in the coming seasons.

“We import 90 per cent of the wheat that is consumed in Kenya, yet we have huge arable land. We, therefore, encourage our farmers to increase the acreage of the crop for them to reap big. We are hopeful that the prices will remain constant,” he added.

Narok Wheat Farmers Association Chairman Stanley Koonyo and several other local farmers hailed the move by the government to increase the prices of wheat, saying it will go a long way in motivating farmers to fully go back to commercial farming.

“Over the years, the prices of wheat had stagnated at between Sh3,000 and Sh3,200 per 90kg bag. This, despite the prices of fuel, inputs and farm machinery leasing going up. This discouraged many farmers and forced the majority of them to diversify to other crops,” said Mr Koonyo.

He, however, pledged to encourage Narok farmers to prioritise wheat in the next planting season.

The farmers have also called on the government to disburse the subsidised fertilisers as early as December in readiness for the February planting season.

Cereal Growers Association (CGA) Chief Executive Anthony Kioko cited birds alongside poor prices as some of the challenges that demoralised wheat farmers.

“With the new wheat prices, we are hopeful that our farmers will increase production. We want to go back to where Narok used to be; we produced 40 per cent of Kenya's wheat with almost 1.5 million bags,” said Mr Kioko.

Barley Growers Association Chairman David Kilesi asked the government to provide alternative markets for their crop, saying the monopoly by the East African Breweries Limited was barring farmers from getting other competitive markets.

“We need a free market for our barley. Apart from Kenya Breweries, we need other buyers for us to get the best prices for our produce,” said Mr Kilesi.