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Farmers want State to increase maize prices

RIFT VALLEY
By - Jonathan Komen and Michael Wesonga | November 5th 2012

By Jonathan Komen and Michael Wesonga

Farmers’ lobby groups are set to meet Agriculture Minister Sally Kosgei this week over the Government’s decision to reduce maize producer prices.

This comes after they held crisis talks with National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) Managing Director Gideon Misoi on Saturday.

The meeting ended in a stalemate after farmers’ representatives failed to reach an agreement with Prof Misoi.

The minister’s intervention follows last week’s protests by farmers in Eldoret demanding that the State reinstates the initial price of Sh3,000 it set for a 90kg bag of maize.

“We are meeting the minister in the next few days so that we can discuss the way forward in regard to the price of maize,” Kenya Farmers Association Director Kipkorir Menjo said yesterday in Eldoret.

Market trends

Mr Menjo said although market trends should determine maize prices, it was prudent for NCPB to have a standard price.

“We all understand that demand and supply should determine the price of any commodity, but the state of grain industry is such that the price has to be set by a Government agent to safeguard farmers from cartels,” he said.

Earlier on, farmers had issued the State with a week’s ultimatum to review the price of maize upwards.

They want NCPB to effect the changes before they take an unspecified action in protest.

The farmers said they want more funds allocated to Treasury for the purchase of maize from the cereals board at Sh3,000 as earlier indicated, as opposed to the current price of Sh2,800.

Early in October Mr Misoi had indicated they would buy maize from farmers at the market price this season.

“We decided to review our prices to be similar to those offered in the market to cushion farmers against exploitation from traders,” he said.

Menjo said the prevailing market prices were usually determined by the Government based on the prices it bought the cereal from farmers.

“This therefore creates room for exploitation with the entrance of middlemen who will want to buy the produce from hardworking farmers at Sh2,500 and Sh2,400, which is way below,” he said.

 Avoid exploitation

They also want the Treasury to allocate an additional Sh3.4 billion to Minister Esther Murugi’s Special Programmes for exhaustion of all the farmers produce in the market to avoid exploitation. The allocation currently stands at Sh1.6 billion.

“Menjo alleged there was a shortfall of wheat and maize stocks from conventional importing countries to Kenya due to weather changes and the State was taking advantage of the situation to exploit farmers.

“Inflated food prices are their own making, they do not do much to subsidise farmers losses; they now want to introduce a 16 per cent value added tax (VAT) on farm inputs that have for long been zero-rated which worsens the situation,” Menjo explained. The proposed Bill in Parliament if successful will introduce tax on fertiliser, seeds and food items like milk.


 

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