Warehouses idle as Rift farmers opt to store their produce at home

Maize farmers in Uasin Gishu County on May 25, 2022. [Christopher Kipsang, Standard]

More than four years after the government established the Warehouse Receipt System (WRS), farmers in Trans Nzoia have shunned the programme.

The government spearheaded the programme to provide storage space for farmers' produce at a fee of about Sh50 per bag of dry cereals stored for a year in certified and registered warehouses.

Private entities, who have the ability to provide such storage space, were given the green light to venture in the business provided they meet the specified standards and regulations.

Such entrepreneurs are certified by the Warehouse Receipt Programme Committee in conjunction with the county Department of Agriculture, which inspects and approves stores earmarked for the initiative.

However, close to four years down the line since the programme was initiated, only a handful of farmers have embraced it, with thousands opting to store their produce in the own stores.

The idea behind the programme was to reduce post-harvest losses by at least 30 per cent, with agricultural experts indicating that about a quarter of the harvested produce go into waste each season.

Mr Fredrick Rono, a large-scale maize farmer from Cherang'any, claimed that the Warehouse Receipt Programme was a scheme by cartels in government to steal from unsuspecting farmers.

Rono said farmers have the ability to store their own produce at no cost provided they build good storage facilities, and that the amount the WRP charged farmers to store a single bag of maize was exorbitant.

No value

He said the process from transportation of the produce to select stores and other logistics involved up to when farmers collect their produce was too high and hence of no value to the farmer.

"This thing should be completely scrapped off. What time do we have to store our produce? Farmers need to be directly and constantly selling their produce, and even Ruto (the president) knows that we engage in agribusiness and do not have time for this," said Rono.

The large-scale cereals farmer who also rears dairy cows alleged that the programme was a scheme by cartels in government who are out to suppress farmers and reap from where they did not sow. Mr John Komen, another farmer from Kwanza sub-county, pointed out that he has been keeping his maize in a private store for several years now yet he had lost nothing in doing so.

Komen said it would be expensive to store 500 bags of cereals under the programme as compared to constructing their own store that would store maize for several harvest seasons and called for a scrap of the programme. "I don't understand what informed this initiative for it is not beneficial to the farmer in any way.

Instead, it is the middlemen who would reap big just for providing storage space when the farmer has engaged in the whole production stages," he said.

At the same time, he said farmers want to produce and sell their produce instantly and not produce and store. In Trans Nzoia, the county government established five mega stores, one in each of the five sub counties but they have often remained empty as farmers shy away, opting to store their own produce.

Only a handful private entrepreneurs have established or converted their premises to be used in the WRS programme but their businesses are yet to pick up.

Kwanza MP Ferdinand Wanyonyi said the uptake of the programme was still low and called on stakeholders to advocate for it, saying it was beneficial and only that farmers lacked awareness. Wanyonyi said he would engage agricultural stakeholders to promote the programme and ensure adequate sensitization.

National Cereals and Produce Board MD Joseph Kimote encouraged farmers to embrace the programme saying it ensures safe space and that quality is maintained.

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