Maize farmers fight back as sector cartels reign supreme

Lorries wait to offload maize at the National Cereals and Produce Board depot in Eldoret last week. [File, Standard]

Farmers want the Government to start working with co-operative societies to distribute farm inputs and weed out maize cartels.

The farmers said they supported renewed efforts of Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri to streamline the sector.

Cartels have been blamed for the woes facing maize farmers in the north rift region, from artificial shortage of subsidised fertilisers to shadow farmers sneaking in maize from neighbouring countries and selling it to the Government. 

Farmers’ representatives now want the Government to support local co-operatives to end the vicious cycle that has been blamed for loopholes in the distribution channels.

Speaking in Eldoret over the weekend, Kenya Farmers Association (KFA) officials said cartels would be locked out only if the Government started working with registered co-operative societies.

Membership verified

The officials said the co-operatives, whose membership is verified and captured in a database in respective counties, would streamline the sector.

“There should be a change in the distribution system of subsidised inputs to farmers. Co-operatives should be strengthened and monitored by Government because this is the only way inputs will reach genuine small-scale farmers,” said KFA Director Kipkorir Menjo.

He said the Government had the machinery to guard the distribution channels of subsidised fertilisers right from importation, adding that access to the subsidies by intended farmers would enhance food production both for subsistence and business.  

“Agriculture is a devolved function and counties should have a database of genuine farmers. With this, it will be easy to make requisitions for inputs and also project the amount of maize to be supplied to the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB)” said Mr Menjo.

He said cartels were destroying the maize sector.

“We support the efforts of CS Kiunjuri to dismantle cartels. Those involved in committees charged with vetting genuine farmers should be paid allowances so they can execute their roles effectively,” he added.

The farmers claimed that the cartels were political, saying a number of elected leaders had remained silent regarding the crisis in the sector.

No action

“We have been raising these issues year-in, year-out but no action has been forthcoming. Farmers have been taken round in circles while leaders are silent,” said Tom Korgoren.

The farmers said cartels were making quick money at the expense of genuine farmers and that ending the racket required commitment by all stakeholders.

"Genuine farmers can be monitored through co-operative societies and distribution of subsidies can be made easy," said Joseph Korir.

The officials proposed the empowerment of KFA to control distribution of farm inputs to farmers, leaving NCPB to handle the purchase of maize.

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