Anxiety as State to declare new maize prices this week

Gael Murkor harvesting Maize at her farm in Uasin Gishu County on August 31, 2023. [Christopher Kipsang, Standard]

The government will announce maize producer price this week as the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) starts buying from farmers.

The Ministry of Agriculture has reassured farmers that NCPB stores across the country will be opened.

“Farmers should be on standby because any time from this minute, the price will be announced. The government will factor operation and input costs before determining the price to ensure producers earn good returns from their investment,” said Kello Harsama, Principal Secretary, Crops.

He cautioned farmers not to rush to sell their produce to middlemen at throw-away prices.

Farmers in the North Rift region are rushing to harvest their crop amid fear of El Nino rains, which the weatherman says are expected this month.

With some maize not fully matured and lack of proper storage facilities, some farmers are disposing of their produce at prices offered by traders.

“The government is aware of what is happening in maize growing zones. Many brokers and middlemen are flocking to farms offering as low as Sh3,500 per 90kg bag of maize. Others are from Tanzania and Uganda who are taking advantage of disparate farmers,” said Harsama.

Drying costs

The PS, who was accompanied by NCPB Managing Director Joseph Kimote, spoke in Eldoret while on a tour of the board’s stores.  

“We expect a bumper harvest of maize in the current season due to the government’s distribution of subsidised fertiliser and adequate rains in the season. The government projects to record a yield of 44 million bags of maize, each of 90kg, with North Rift alone producing 23 million,” he said.

Harsama urged farmers not to rush to sell their produce, saying the region has enough driers to handle the capacity produced.

“Kitale region has a drier that can handle 50 tons of maize per hour. A similar facility is in Eldoret, Moi’s Bridge, Bungoma, Nakuru and Trans Mara,” he said.

He said the government has also subsidised the costs of drying maize, slashing Sh62 per 90kg bag by 50 per cent.

The PS also said the importation of duty-free yellow maize will support livestock farmers and reduce competition on white maize for human and livestock use.

Kimote said once NCPB receives instructions from the government to procure maize, they will serve farmers on a first-come-first-served basis using new technologies for transparency and accountability.

He said said NCPB has a storage capacity of over 20 million bags of 90kg across its silos in the country.

Sawe said they expect 12 driers from the national government to assist farmers during the El Nino rains.

Farmers are hoping that the government will offer good prices to compensate for high production costs.

Loyce Kimengetich said they have been adversely affected by the high cost of fuel.

“Before considering allowing importation of duty-free yellow maize, the government should announce maize producer prices to protect farmers from exploitation,” said Kimengich.

Thomas Bowen from Tapsagoi said any price less than Sh5,500 per 90kg bag would be inadequate for profits.

Traders are taking advantage of producers who lack proper storage facilities.

“We urge the government to announce current maize producer prices to avoid exploitation by middlemen who offer throwaway prices at doorsteps. To be profitable, the State should declare a price of not less than Sh5,000 per 90kg bag,” said Salome Mweno, a small-scale farmer in Uasin Gishu.

She said the current farm gate price of a 90kg bag has dropped to Sh3,700 from as high as Sh4,500.

Mweno lauded the availability of subsidised fertilizer, but noted that production costs remain high due to escalating fuel prices and pests and weed control chemicals.

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