Maize prices drop as farmers kept waiting

Bags of maize on sale in Uasin Gishu County on May 25, 2022. [Christopher Kipsang, Standard]

Maize prices have continued to drop in North Rift as the government remains tight-lipped on minimum prices.

Despite repeated promises by the State to announce producer prices, farmers' patience is running out, with traders flocking to the region offering throwaway prices at the farm gate.

A section of cereal producers who spoke to The Standard on Wednesday said middlemen are offering prices ranging between Sh3,500 and Sh3,900 per 90kg bag, noting that the prices could have stabilised if the government had set current season producer price.

They said with the high rate at which some farmers are disposing maize to meet financial needs, stocks could be depleted and the government may even lack grain for purchase through the National Cereals and Produce Board.

Last week, then Principal Secretary State Department for Crops in the Ministry of Agriculture Kello Harsama had reassured farmers that the government would announce maize producer price within the week.

Mr Harsama, who has since been moved to Asal and Regional Development ministry, had promised NCPB stores would open its doors to receive supplies once producer price is declared.

On standby

"Farmers should be on standby because any time, the price will be announced. The government will factor in operation and input costs before determining price to ensure producers earn good returns," said Harsama.

He cautioned farmers not to rush in selling their produce to middlemen and instead wait for the government deal.

The PS was accompanied by NCPB Managing Director Joseph Kimote who said the cereals board had put in place all measurers to receive farmers' produce once it receives instructions from the government.

In August, during a tour of Trans Nzoia County, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi had also promised to announce current season producer price.

Yesterday, farmers urged the State to declare the producer price without further delay to help stabilise market prices and enable them plan well for the next planting season.

Thomas Bowen, a farmer from Turbo, said maize is a staple food and the government ought to give it priority.

"The government has allocated funds to expand crops including coffee, sugarcane, and tea. Maize was only allocated funds for fertiliser subsidy while other factors including fuel, chemicals and labour remains high," said Bowen, who said ploughing an acre next year could exceed Sh4,000 compared to current Sh2,500.

Expressed fear

The farmer also expressed fear that businessmen, some of whom are buying and exporting local maize produce to as far as Rwanda at lucrative prices, could cause a food deficit next year unless the government stocks NCPB stores.

Jackson Kwambai, a farmer from Moiben, said millers and traders are taking advantage of vulnerable farmers who lack good storage to offer throwaway prices.

"With a good road network in most parts of Uasin Gishu, traders have accessed villages where they buy maize at below Sh3,900 per bag owing to hard economic situation faced by families," said Kwambai.

Ben Sirma, a farmer from Trans Nzoia, urged the government to involve farmers in determining maize producer price.