Maize farmers reject Sh4,000 per bag, want State to buy at Sh5,500

Maize farmer Thomas Boen in Uasin Gishu County on August 31, 2023. [Christopher Kipsang, Standard]

Maize farmers in the North Rift region have insisted that the government should set the producer price for current harvests at Sh5,500 per 90kg bag to enable them to return to the farm next season.

Through their representatives, the maize farmers said the Sh4,000 per bag announced recently by the government is too low based on the skyrocketing cost of fuel, and depreciating value of the shilling among other operation costs.

They claimed unlike tea, coffee and sugarcane sub-sectors that have received government attention, maize - the country's staple food, has been ignored.

Their demands after a day-long meeting in Eldoret on Wednesday, come days after Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi announced that the government will spend Sh4 billion to purchase one million bags of current season maize for strategic food reserves.

The CS said the stocks would be purchased through the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) stores across the country. The stores, however, are yet to be opened.

"Our main cash crop is maize. Past and present governments have addressed concerns facing tea, coffee and sugarcane farmers. We were only factored in through subsidised fertiliser, which is just a single component of production. Price of fuel and other operations have gone up," said Thomas Bowen.

Bowen, a farmer from Tapsagoi in Uasin Gishu said they spent an average of Sh3,250 to produce a 90 kg bag of current season maize hence it will be a loss to sell at Sh4,000.

"Government should review maize prices to Sh5,500 per bag to be at par with current prices within the Eastern Africa Community (EAC) owing to the depreciation of the shilling," said Bowen.

He added; "Following the announcement by the government, middlemen are now frustrating producers offering Sh3,100 at the farm gate while millers purchase at between Sh3,700 and Sh3,800 after a farmer has spent about Sh300 a bag on transport."

David Kiberenge, a representative of small-scale farmers through cooperative movement in the North Rift lauded the government for availing subsidised fertiliser that saw the input price drop from over Sh6,000 per 50 kg bag to Sh3,500 and currently Sh2,500.

"Farmers bought fertiliser for the current maize season at Sh3,500 per bag and for them to earn profits through agribusiness, the producer price should be at Sh5,500 per 90 kg bag. Sh4,000 announced by the CS should be applied in the next season after farmers use the Sh2,500-a-bag fertiliser," insisted Kiberenge.

He at the same time said Deputy President (DP) Rigathi Gachagua has toured the Mt Kenya region to address the plight of coffee farmers and lay strategies on how to earn profits.

The DP, Kiberenge added, has also met tea farmers in Kericho and sugarcane producers in Western Kenya but has never been to North Rift to listen to maize farmers.

"We would have taken a private bill to parliament as farmers' representatives, but we have elected legislators in the North Rift Economic Bloc (Noreb) region. They have remained silent, and we urge them to table a bill and have concerns of maize farmers addressed effectively," he said.

He said there is a need to decentralise NCPB and open stores at ward levels, adding that adequate maize reserves ought to be bought by the government at good prices.

Kipkorir Menjo, the Kenya Farmers Association (KFA) director supported farmers' calls saying Sh4,000 per bag of maize is too low, to motivate producers to enhance the country's food security.

Sources at NCPB who did not wish to be quoted hinted that the board is ready to receive supplies from farmers but is awaiting instructions from the ministry.