The Government will in the next one-week release Sh1 billion to clear outstanding debts owed to maize farmers, a Cabinet secretary has said.
Speaking in Endebess during his maiden visit to Kenya's bread breadbasket, of North Rift, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri said the Government underestimated the amount of maize due for delivery leading to the delay.
Mr Kiunjuri visited Trans Nzoia and Uasin Gishu counties, where hundreds of farmers lined up to deliver grain to the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB).
Farmers are yet to receive payment for maize delivered last season.
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“In the past few years, (farmers) have been delivering 2.5 million bags, but this time around, they delivered 3.2 million bags,” said the CS who had earlier held a meeting with Trans Nzoia Governor Patrick Khaemba.
The farmers among other grievances complained of delays by NCPB in accepting their grain and the high cost of input such as fertiliser.
"(NCPB) officials have told us that there is no space in the depot yet there is no other place that we could deliver. The Government should hasten to clear the maize by distributing into other NCPB stores in dry areas to allow us make prompt deliveries of maize," said George Ng'elechei a farmer in Kapseret.
He said instead of politicking, the region's MPs should have been "presenting our issues".
"The Government is quick to allocate money to import maize and other products but it takes our protest for them to allocate money for our produce," he said.
Another farmer John Kipkorir said: "Lorry owners are demanding Sh1,000 everyday while the drivers require Sh500 per day for the prolonged stay. We need the stores to be cleared so that we can make prompt deliveries."
President Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to officially open this year’s Eldoret ASK show tomorrow, a renewed activity to appease farmers.
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Three key ministry officials have recently visited the North Rift region, seeking to assure farmers that their problems would be solved.
On Wednesday, Agriculture Principal Secretary Richard Lesiyampe was in Nandi County where he announced the expected release of the funds.
Some farmers have not ploughed their farms due to lack of money.
“Treasury will be releasing some Sh3 billion in two weeks’ time towards purchase of maize. The funds will immediately be disbursed to farmers who supplied maize to NCPB,” said Mr Lesiyampe.
He continued: “The delay to clear farmers’ payments was occasioned by an unforeseen over supply of maize by farmers which strained our set budget. However, the Ministry has already paid Sh7.2 billion to farmers.”
The Chief Administrative Secretary in the Agriculture ministry Andrew Tuimur explained that the oversupply was due to high prices offered by the Government.
“The Sh3,200 per bag price of purchase of maize is an all-time high that the Government offered farmers which acted as an incentive to farmers to supply more maize to NCPB,” he said.
Ironically, it was revealed that during a regional meeting, it was suggested that Uganda exports five million metric tonnes of maize to Kenya.
Uganda Minister of State for Trade Michael Werikhe revealed the plans during the opening of a regional cross border investment and trade expo in Eldoret.
“During the heads summit, discussions revolved around plans to export maize. In Uganda, we have five million metric tonnes and we decided as trade ministries after the heads met that we should bring the produce to our brothers in Kenya,” he said.
[Osinde Obare, Rael Jelimo, Silah Koskei and Joan Letting]