Farmers protest cheap maize imports from Uganda

The price of maize has started going down over the past two weeks as cheaper imports from neighbouring Uganda flood the informal market.

A 90-kilogram bag of maize that used to retail at Sh 4,200 is now fetching as low as Sh 3,400 following competition from the cheap imports in parts of Trans Nzoia County.

According to sources, middlemen buy 90 kg of maize for between 1,500 and 1,800 in Uganda, which they later sell at between Sh3,400 and Sh3,800 locally.

The maize is being sourced from Bukwo District, Eastern Uganda, where harvesting kicked off last December.

Kenyan middlemen have stocked huge consignments of maize sourced from across the border, which they dry and sell to local millers.

The arrival of cheap imports has seen prices dwindle, a situation that has disadvantaged Kenyan farmers.

Tom Nyagechega, the Kenya National Federation of Farmer Kenff Commodity Representative, acknowledged that the cheap imports have affected local prices.

"The cheap imports have destabilised producer prices and disadvantaged local farmers," lamented Nyagechaga.

He complained that middlemen had taken advantage of the free market to import huge maize consignments that have affected local prices.

Nyagechaga said some farmers who were yet to sell last season’s harvest have suffered a major blow due to the imports.

"Some farmers who had stored stocks hoping for price rise have been frustrated by the imports," said the official.

A spot-check by The Standard revealed that cereal traders in Kitale have stocked imported products.

Some farmers who had hoarded their maize expecting better prices are now a frustrated lot. Most producers in the region had also shunned the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) that purchases the produce at Sh4,000 per 90 kg bag, citing stringent conditions.

Those interviewed said they expected prices of last season's stocks to appreciate, but the cheap imports have flooded the market.

"I have a stock of 1,000 bags, and I expected the price to go up, but this has not happened due to the arrival of cheap maize from Uganda," lamented John Sigei.

The farmer had hoped to use the proceeds from maize buy fertiliser.

“DAP fertiliser is expensive, and I hoped to sell my maize when the price is at least Sh5,000 per bag. It is disappointing that middlemen have brought cheap imports from Uganda," complained the farmers.

Kitale Industries, a giant private maize miller in the area is buying maize at Sh3,800 per 90kg bag. Large-scale farmers stock their maize and sell when the prices are high.

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