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Pay us for maize deliveries now, farmers tell State

By Michael Ollinga | March 22nd 2015

Maize farmers in the Rift Valley have asked the government to ensure prompt payment for maize delivered to the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB).

The payments, the say, will facilitate their preparations for the next planting season.

The farmers said the recent directive by Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Felix Koskei to have all NCPB depots continue taking in maize would not solve the problems,  and added that most of them had  not purchased inputs and tilled their farms as they wait for payment.

Mr Koskei on Thursday directed NCPB depots to remain open to deliveries by maize farmers after a some growers  protested the move by the parastatal to stop the exercise due to exhaustion of funds.

Kipkorir arap Menjo, the Director Kenya Farmers Association, who was instrumental in advocating the reopening of the depots, says their current situation requires prompt payment besides a subsidy on seed prices. “Directing NCPB to continue taking maize is not a bad move but the planting season is here. It will be vital that they pay us immediately we deliver the maize so that we can prepare the land and purchase inputs. Seed prices are very high and the government needs to intervene,” Menjo said.

Menjo blamed MPs for the crisis, saying they did not approve proposals to allocate sufficient money for purchasing maize by NCPB last year.

Grain reserves

The Government set aside Sh2.7 billion towards the purchase of Strategic Grain Reserves last year, but which Menjo says is inadequate and can buy less than 1.5 million 90kg bags of maize. The North Rift alone produces up to 10 million bags in one season, Menjo says.

“After the funds were released and exhausted, we met the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture and gave them a proposal to allocate Sh10 billion for purchase of maize. They agreed, but this has never been brought to the floor of the House for implementation, leading to the current situation,” said Menjo.

He said besides the Sh10 billion, the farmers had proposed that an additional Sh3 billion be set aside for seed subsidies and another Sh3 billion given to the Agricultural Finance Corporation to boost capacity for seasonal crops and development.

“The seeds prices are high. The government owes Kenya Seed Company Sh1.3 billion for subsidising seeds in 2013-2014 because it failed to honour a pledge to cater for the price reduction by the firm. Now, the company has increased prices and all this hurts the farmers more,” he said.

NCPB has received more than 1.5 million bags of maize and owes farmers more than Sh1 billion in delayed payments, which Menjo says should be addressed rather than taking in more maize and continuing to hold back payments.

Middlemen factor

Samuel Birir, a large scale maize farmer who had been waiting for 25 days to deliver 400 bags of maize, said they have no alternative market for their produce as millers and middlemen are purchasing maize at less than Sh2,500 a bag.

“Its ironical that MPs from Rift Valley have been silent as we continue to suffer. They know the situation we are going through and should declare this a crisis and use Parliament to address our issues,” Birir said. NCPB's PRO Titus Maiyo said that the government had Sh4.3 billion for the purchase of maize and had exceeded allocations by Sh100 million and that they have no otherwise but to stop receiving of maize from farmers.

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