Farmers are staring at a maize glut, with a bumper harvest expected in two months.
North Rift farmers said the situation could be worsened by the fact that some of them were still holding onto hundreds of thousands of bags from last year’s harvest.
The National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) stores are also full, raising fears that farmers may have nowhere to sell maize.
Stakeholders now want the State to disclose, in advance, the quantities of maize it plans to take so that farmers can seek alternative markets if need be.
Jackson Kwambai and Kimutai Kolum, both large-scale maize producers in Uasin Gishu County, and North Rift Kenya Farmers Association (KFA) director Kipkorir Menjo, said with farmers still holding last harvest’s stock, NCPB depots full and prevailing weather conducive for good harvest, there was likely to be a glut.
40 million bags
“Anticipated harvests in the next two months will be about 40 million bags in the region alone, while farmers still hold more than 500,000 bags from last year’s harvest,” said Mr Menjo.
He said the Government did not make reservations for Strategic Food Reserve while fresh maize imports from Uganda were being offloaded into the country. “Importation of maize was done in excess of the country’s need when the Government sought to stabilise the price of flour last year. More maize was offloaded to millers and as farmers prepare for harvesting this year, all market outlets are full,” said Menjo.
Samwel Yego, the Uasin Gishu committee member for Agriculture, said it was high time the Government released figures of the quantities of maize it would buy at the end of the season so that producers could seek other market outlets.
Mr Kolum said the Maize Lethal Necrosis disease that was rampant in South Rift had been contained and that farmers were set to record improved yields. “Unless appropriate measures are taken by policy makers, the Agriculture sector will be doomed. We support President Uhuru Kenyatta’s efforts to eradicate graft. Cartels in agriculture sector should be weeded out to ensure farmers reap good returns,” said Mr Kolum.
There are also concerns that excess maize in the market will lead to a drop in prices, even as farmers wait to be paid more than Sh3.5 billion owed for last year’s supplies to NCPB.
Mr Kwambai said maize prices had already dropped to as low as between Sh1,200 and Sh1,300 per 90kg bag, noting it could drop further once farmers harvest in October.
“Owing to the Government delay in paying farmers for supplies to NCPB, producers are prompted to sell the stocks they still have in stores but at throwaway prices to clear debts for inputs and other operations for the current crop,” said Kwambai.
The harvest season in North Rift starts in October.
Farmers rely heavily on NCPB as a main market for their produce. Middlemen and millers also buy substantial amounts of maize from farmers.
Cost of production in some countries in the East African region is reportedly lower compared to Kenya’s, thus making imported maize cheaper than the locally produced.