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Low maize prices leave farmers frustrated in harvesting season

By Titus Too | November 5th 2021


Maize traders transporting produce along Kitale-Eldoret on October 27, 2021. [Peter Ochieng, Standard]

Farmers in North Rift are a frustrated lot as they grapple with dropping produce prices.

The high cost of living and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the economy has prompted some small-scale maize producers to harvest early, sun-dry the grains before selling amid poor demand that has seen prices dip to as low as Sh2,400 per 90kg bag.

The producers in financial need are selling freshly-harvested grains to traders and millers to offset debts and meet other financial obligations.

Anxiety is rife in the region that prices could drop further as harvesting season reaches its peak. Such a situation would demoralise farmers by narrowing profit margins, considering that there has been no fertiliser subsidy in the past two planting seasons.

“Farmers lack resources to sustain their financial needs due to the impact of Covid-19 pandemic,” said Jeremiah Kosgei, a maize trader in Eldoret.

“Some small-scale producers have started harvesting produce and drying them for the immediate market because they lack alternative sources of income.”

Kosgei said they have started receiving newly harvested maize from small-scale farmers in the region who need ready cash to meet their financial needs.

“At the moment, there is no maize sourced from outside the region, but prices are drastically reducing from the recent over Sh2,700 and now retails at Sh2,400 per 90kg bag.

“Most millers have stopped purchasing grains to monitor the price situation as farmers expect a bumper harvest,” noted Kosgei.

He observed that lack of income is prompting a few small-scale farmers to harvest early and dispose of produce amid a low demand presently in the market.

“Owing to the Covid-19 protocols including curfew that reduced mobility, consumption of maize reduced, hence its demand is low at the moment. This could further affect prices,” said Kosgei.

Tom Korgoren, a cereals producer, said pressure to clear debts and prepare for the next planting season is pushing some farmers to dispose of their grains due to fear of further price reduction.

“Maize supply has started to increase and prices continue to drop. It is a challenge as farmers continue to struggle in the maize sub-sector due to unpredictable returns,” said Korgoren. This comes as local leaders protested that maize farmers have been neglected by the government.

They wondered how the government would budget and allocate support to various cash crops including coffee, tea, and sugarcane in a stimulus package and avoid the country’s staple food maize and wheat.

Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mndago, Soy MP Caleb Kositany and his Moiben counterpart Silas Tiren said the maize sector needs reforms and policies that would address high cost of inputs and marketing that have remained a burden to producers.

“The government has neglected maize farming and that is why it is not budgeted for. The government may not achieve food security if it continues to ignore farmer’s pleas,” Tiren said. 

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