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Farmers reject government’s maize price offer, warn of glut after bumper harvest

NEWS
By Titus Too and Osinde Obare | November 24th 2018
Maize farm

Farmers have rejected government’s offer to buy maize at Sh2,300 per 90kg bag.

This comes before the state clears Sh2.2 billion owed to farmers for their supplies to replenish Strategic Food Reserves (SFRs) in last season’s harvest.

“The government bought produce from farmers last year at Sh3,200 per 90 kg bag and it is quite abnormal to lower this to Sh2,300 this year when production costs have escalated,” said Kipkorir Menjo, Kenya Farmers Association director North Rift.

Moiben MP Silas Tiren said they contested the maize price when the Strategic Food Reserve (SFR) board made the announcement early this month. “Immediately the SFR board announced the new price, we rejected it as a parliamentary committee and the board promised to review. We are surprised the Cabinet has now endorsed it. Does it mean Parliament has no powers?” he posed yesterday saying Sh2,300 is unacceptable.

He noted that the coast of producing a 90kg bag of maize is Sh2,700 and it is unfair for the government to deny farmers better returns.

Threaten food security

“The latest prices will deny farmers the chance of farming in the coming season. This will threaten food security under agenda 4 development pillars. Our farmers are supposed to be empowered to reduce food imports at high costs,” Tiren said.

He said the endorsement of the new producer prices has subjected farmers to more frustrations with the government yet to clear Sh 2.2 billion for maize supplies to NCPB eleven months ago.

About two weeks ago, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri faced the wrath of farmers in the North Rift who vowed not to accept the producer price announced by SFR board chair  Noah Wekesa.  

“I am aware the Sh2,300 price is being contested. However, I can confirm a task-force met and we agreed it should follow up on the issue of prices and come up with a report,” Kiunjuri said when he toured North Rift and Western recently.

He added then that: “Those opposed to the new price want to know how SFR arrived at it. They have argued that the cost of producing a 90-kg bag of maize is Sh2,150 but Tegemeo Institute and SFR board insist it cost Sh1,544. That is why we set up the team to resolve the dispute.”

Ainabkoi MP William Chepkut said: “The cost of production is so high. President Uhuru Kenyatta should instruct SFR board to review the current prices, what they gave us was scientific, which methodology they used to arrive at Sh2300.

“I propose that the government through the SFR board must enter into a structured and policy anchored contract with farmers to buy and exhaust locally produced maize before allowing importation.”

Tom Korgoren, a farmer in Uasin Gishu said it is sad that the government issued the price without involving producers who know the dynamics of producing maize. “We do not know the formula used to arrive at Sh2,300 per bag. This is like telling farmers not to go back to farming next year,” said Mr Korgoren.

He added that former Agriculture Minister Willy Bett indicated in 2016 that the cost of producing a 90kg bag is Sh 2,400 before adding a rebate of Sh400 to farmers to arrive at Sh2,800 per bag. Korgoren said with the increasing cost of production, farmers should earn at least Sh3,000 per bag.

Menjo warned of a serious maize glut if the government buys only 2 million bags when the maize sector projected a total production of 46 million bags. “There will be more trouble of market glut due to excessive importation last year, existing stocks of last year in farmer’s stores and a good harvest in the current season. NCPB is supposed to stabilise prices but if it offers Sh 2,300 and buys only 2 million bags, farmers will be exploited by middle men and millers,” said Menjo.   

Trans Nzoia farmers threatened to boycott maizeproduction over the price drop terming it a major blow to farming and warned the government of reduction in food production. Through the Kenya National Federation of Farmers (Kneff), the farmers said the price is low compared to the cost of production and accused the government of being insensitive. “The price is a slap on our face. It will ruin farming because we depend on maize. We are going to boycott the crop,” said Tom Nyagechanga, Kneff Secretary General.

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