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Narok wheat farmers cry foul over falling prices

By Stephen Mkawale | Jul 16th 2018 | 3 min read
Harvesting machinery seen behind a wheat crop in a paddock located on the outskirts of the South Australian town of Jamestown, in Australia. [Reuters]

Farmers have asked millers to buy wheat directly from them to end exploitation by middlemen.

Those who spoke to The Standard said this would also stabilise prices.

The farmers yesterday lamented that the price middlemen were offering had dropped from Sh2, 500 to Sh2, 000 per 90kg bag within two weeks.

Farmers in Nkorinkori and Ololulung'a, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, are harvesting an average of 20 bags per acre.

The farmers said they wanted the millers to pay at least Sh3, 500 per bag otherwise, they would incur massive losses

They lamented that the production cost per acre rose from Sh11, 000 two years ago to Sh18,000 this year, thus what the middlemen were offering would push them out of business.

"Middlemen are taking advantage of the absence of millers and the Government to exploit farmers who desperately need money to service loans and other commitments," said one of the farmers, Lekina Kameto.

He said adequate rains between March and May and good crop husbandry had led to a bumper harvest.

Unlike in previous years, the rains reduced attacks by pests, cutting expenses by over 50 per cent, Mr Kameto said.

Last year the farmers harvested an average of seven bags per acre because of pests, diseases and poor rainfall.

Kameto, a large scale farmer in Ololulung'a, who is also the Cereals Growers Association (CGA) secretary, asked the Government to offer farmers storage at the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) to cut post-harvest losses.

"Because of favourable weather, the harvest is plentiful. Farmers should be allowed to store their produce at NCPB depots," he said.

NCPB dryers, he added, should also be made available to them free of charge, noting the moisture content was above normal because of the cold weather.

"Farmers should be allowed to use storage facilities at NCPB to keep their produce until prices improve," Kameto said.

He called on the Government to make the warehouse receipting system (WRS) a reality to end years of exploitation by middlemen and millers.

WRS enables farmers to deposit storable goods, usually grains or coffee, in exchange for a warehouse receipt (WR), evidence that specified commodities of stated quantity and quality have been deposited at a particular location.

The system, launched eight years ago, was to enable farmers to store their produce in NCPB depots and use the receipts as collateral to finance farming as they waited for markets prices to improve. Farmers were to pay subsidised storage fees.

This year, farmers cultivated additional acres because they were able to get loans using their title deeds as collateral after the Government last year waived Sh1.2 billion accumulated loans they owed the Agricultural Finance Corporation.

Fredrick Shikuku, the Narok South agricultural officer, said most farmers who had abandoned wheat because of lack of credit returned to business after the loans were waived.

"Apart from favourable weather and reduction in pest invasion, the acreage under the crop expanded because they could access new loans to finance farming," he said.

A manager with Eldoret Grains Limited, who declined to be named because he is not authorised to speak for the company, said millers would meet officials of the Agriculture and Treasury ministries early next month to fix wheat prices.

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