Imports choke wheat farmers

Thousands of farmers in wheat-producing zones are stuck with produce with millers’ stores currently full of the imported grain.

Millers have told farmers they don’t have more storage space and can only accommodate local wheat starting January, leaving growers mainly from Narok unable to dispose of produce.

Cereal Growers Association (CGA) of Kenya has warned the move will affect next year’s crop as farmers might cut down on the acreage under wheat, affecting production in a country that relies on imports.

“Millers have said their stores are full and are unable to buy farmers’ crop at this point in time,” said Anthony Kioko, chief executive officer CGA.
George Kili, a large-scale wheat farmer from Eldoret, told the Business Daily the millers bought a few bags last week but they have halted the exercise citing lack of storage.

“Unga Limited and Dola Millers purchased some bags last week but they have so far stopped the process,” said Mr Kili.

Unga Limited chief executive officer Nick Hutchinson had not commented on the matter by press time.

READ: Millers lobby State to allow in duty-free wheat imports

The farmer said Unga Ltd was buying a 90-kilogramme bag at S,050 while Dola was offering Sh2,800, which he said is below the break-even point.

A report by the Ministry of Agriculture indicates the minimum cost in production of a bag of wheat in North Rift is S,200. This can rise to S,400 in areas such as Narok.

Mr Kioko said the millers’ prices do not guarantee farmers a return on their investment as they are way below the production cost.

Farmers in Narok harvested between last July and August this year, with projections for the 2015 crop by the ministry putting the harvest at between 350,000 and 400,000 bags.

Kenya is a net importer of wheat, producing 350,000 tonnes against an annual consumption of 900,000 tonnes.