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NCPB starts maize purchase but Rift farmers unhappy with price

RIFT VALLEY
By Titus Too | November 19th 2021

Agriculture Parliamentary Committee Chairman Silas Tiren inpects dry maize near the Kipchoge Stadium after attending farmers meeting in Eldoret yesterday. [Peter Ochieng, Standard]

The National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) has opened its doors for the purchase of current season maize harvests across the country.

The announcement by the board to start buying the produce at Sh1,305 per 50kg bag from Wednesday elicited protests from farmers who said the price was low viewed against the rising costs of production. 

The new development comes as maize harvesting season hits its peak in the North Rift – a region classified as the country’s grain basket.

Producers who project a drop in yields due to the erratic rain patterns witnessed at the beginning of the planting season in March and June expressed fears that most of them may not return to farming in the next season due to poor returns.

Farmers’ representatives, who had convened in Eldoret to deliberate on issues ailing the sub-sector, urged the government to intervene and review prices upwards to sustain food production.

“We had promised that we will no longer stage demonstrations over issues relating to subsidies and prices for maize because Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya toured the region last year with promises to address our concerns,” said David Kiberenge, a farmer.

Mr Kiberenge, who represents agricultural producers, said the CS promised to streamline the sector but noted that as farmers harvest their maize, their woes have not been addressed.

“We respect the government and will not politicise this issue. Production costs have gone up due to the cost of fuel, fertilizer and lack of subsidies. To enable farmers make good returns, production costs should not exceed Sh3,000 per 90kg bag of maize,” said Kiberenge.

Big four agenda

He said food security is one of the pillars of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four agenda and that the government should enhance productivity.

Mr Kipkorir Menjo, a Kenya Farmers Association (KFA) director, said for maize prices to stabilise, the government should buy two million 90kg bags from farmers in North Rift in the current season.

“The government should intervene and ensure maize producer prices are based on operational costs. Offering low prices will demoralise maize producers and lead to food shortage,” said Menjo.

Moiben MP Silas Tiren who chairs the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture said the opening of NCPB depots for maize purchase was long overdue.

Tiren, who supported calls to set maize producer price at Sh1,700 per 50kgs, demanded that NCPB explains how it settled on the Sh1,305 per 50 kg bag rate.

“The high cost of fuel, machinery and other farm implements are still high thus affecting mechanisation in maize sub-sector,” said Tiren. The MP said his committee would meet Treasury and Agriculture officials to address farmers’ concerns.

Tiren, at the same time, demanded to know the source of maize currently distributed as food rations in the 29 counties affected by drought.

“The government declared 29 counties drought-stricken. Food supplies including maize are being distributed yet the government has not bought maize from farmers. We should be told the source of the produce,” said Menjo. On Wednesday afternoon, NCPB issued notices: “NCPB now opens purchasing of maize from November 17, 2021 at Sh1,305 per 50Kgs, by management.”

Titus Maiyo, the NCPB Corporate Affairs Manager, said the board is purchasing maize on its commercial function for trade.

“The prices offered are based on prevailing market costs. The price being offered by NCPB is for its commercial function and not for Strategic Food Reserves. The price is based on the prevailing market prices. When the government decides to buy maize for the National Food Reserves, they will give a price for that together with accompanying conditions,” he said.

Maiyo also said the board is open for maize storage through its Warehouse Receipting System (WRS) for farmers who wish to store it for future sale.

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