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Huge losses as maize harvests rot in stores

News By Mercy Kahenda | 05th May, 2020
Farmers prepare to store their maize after harvesting. Many are counting losses due to heavy rains. [Kipsang Joseph]

Maize farmers in Nakuru are staring at huge losses caused by heavy rains experienced in the rift region.

Most affected farmers are from Kuresoi, Njoro and Molo sub-counties who harvested the produce in January, February and late March.

Farmers said newly harvested maize has high moisture content with efforts to dry it being hampered by the ongoing heavy downpour.

Agnes Salim, a maize farmer from Mariashioni in Njoro Sub-County is among those counting post-harvest losses from her 20-acre plantation. She harvested at least 25 bags of 90kg each per acre last month.

“A portion of what I harvested rotted in the store because of the heavy rains. I am worried that I may end up incurring more losses,” said Salim.

She said despite hiring labourers to help her dry the cereal, the weather patterns keep changing, making it hard for her to mitigate against the losses.

Poor quality of the crop has also forced her to sell a bag of 90kg to commercial millers in Njoro at Sh2,700 per 90kg bag, instead of Sh3,000.

According to National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) standards, moisture content for maize should be 13.5, to avert post-harvest losses including rotting of the crop.

The content can be attained through proper drying of maize.

Most of the produce from the farmers at the stores has Rotten Disease Discoloration (RDD), and does also not meet food quality standards.

“I sold the maize for fear of incurring total losses. It is now upon the millers to dry the produce to standard moisture content,” said a farmer.

The rains have also submerged newly germinated maize crop on several acres in the area leaving farmers counting losses.

Stephen Lelei’s maize crop started rotting in the farm before it was ready for harvesting.

The farmer from Elburgon in Molo Sub-County only managed to harvest 30 bags of 90 kilogram per acre, instead of 45 bags he anticipated.

Too much rains

“I planted 10 acres but I harvested less produce because the rains were too much after flowering,” said the farmer.

Despite harvesting 300 bags, he has also not been able to dry it, and fears he might incur total losses.

“I have tried drying the crop, but the rains start pouring very early,” said Lelei.

And, even though there is ready market for maize, brokers and millers force are now making a killing from the farmers. 

Nakuru County Chief officer agriculture Joel Kibet admitted that a number of farmers are incurring postharvest losses for maize and bean crop, due to heavy rains.

As a mitigation, he asked farmers to link up with NCPB management to dry the cereals at a cost of Sh17 per bag.

“We do not have control over rains, that's why farmers should take their produce for dying at NCPB stores,” he said. 

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