Farmers fear that the challenges that affected them last year could recur this year.
Many farmers last season grappled with the high cost of inputs, an armyworm invasion, and delayed payment for maize delivered to the cereals board.
In North Rift, these factors have been blamed for poor yields even as the Government promised to improve producer prices from Sh3,000 to Sh3,200 per 90kg bag of maize.
Some farmers in the region want agriculture stakeholders to convene a meeting to enable producers to share their experiences and deliberate on lasting solutions to the myriad challenges facing the sector.
“Unpaid dues for maize supplied to the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB), high and fluctuating cost of fuel, and high cost of pesticides are some of concerns for farmers as they prepare for the next planting season,” said Ruth Kemboi, a farmer in Uasin Gishu County.
Mrs Kemboi, who is also the Kenya National Farmers Federation’s Uasin Gishu branch treasurer, said the cost of diesel was Sh96 a litre, pushing up the cost of ploughing.
She said farming was the sole source of income for majority of the residents and that additional operating costs will cut anticipated farming returns.
“Most farmers may have to reduce production acreage in the coming season due to poor harvests last year. Some farmers harvested an average of only five bags of maize per acre due to the effects of the fall armyworm and drought,” said Christopher Kiptum, a local farmer.
Another farmer, Kimutai Kolum, said once the new Agriculture Cabinet secretary, Mwangi Kiunjuri, takes over, he should consider speedy payment for the maize deliveries made to NCPB last December and January 2018.
“During his campaigns in the region, President Uhuru Kenyatta promised to further lower the prices of fertiliser from Sh1,800 to Sh1,200 per 50kg bag. We urge the Government to implement this promise,” said Kolum.
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Mr Joseph Cheboi, the Uasin Gishu county director of agriculture, noted that the armyworm invasion was a challenge last year but added that farmers now have the knowledge to respond to such a disaster.
At the same time, Kenya Seed Company (KSC) has assured farmers of adequate certified maize seed for the current planting season.
Sammy Chepsiror, KSC’s head of sales and marketing, urged farmers to prepare their farms in advance and buy certified seeds on time to avoid rushing at the last minute.
Mr Chepsiror said the company had about 10,000 stockists and agents countrywide.