The government is headed for a collision with maize farmers in the North Rift over prices for their produce.
The farmers have taken issue with what they term as failure by the government to increase the price of maize above Sh2,300 per 90kg bag despite promises by President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto when they toured the region.
The expectations of attractive prices were dashed when the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) maintained that it will buy the crop at Sh 2,300 per 90kg bag, the same amount it offered last season.
President Kenyatta and Mr Ruto had, during the tour of the vote-rich region last week, assured farmers that the government had increased funding to NCPB to expand its depots and buy maize on a continuous basis as well as meet the cost of drying maize.
“We have constituted a board which will address problems facing farmers and unlike in the past, the NCPB depots will remain open throughout the year,” said Mr Ruto during the rally.
The farmers, however, challenged Mr Ruto to disclose the new maize prices even after he said Sh4 billion had been set aside to buy the crop.
“The new prices will be announced next week now that there is a team that will drive the maize sector without burdening farmers,” added the DP.
Mr Ruto further disclosed that the government has allocated S billion to buy subsidised fertiliser.
The board has already bought 29,675 bags of maize at around Sh68 million in the North Rift region as farmers rush to sell the crop to avoid losses caused by El Nino rains.
READ: Maize flour prices drop below Sh100 after North Rift harvest
The NCPB managing director Newton Terer said the board targets to buy one million bags of maize at Sh 2,300 per 90kg even as farmers petition the government to increase the prices to meet the skyrocketing cost of production.
“We currently have funds to pay the farmers and operational driers in our centres countrywide to meet the needs of the farmers,” Mr Terer said on phone.
But the farmers want the government to increase the prices to Sh 3,000 per 90kg to enable them to break even and earn profit tom invest in the next crop.
“The set prices by the government will expose us to exploitation by middlemen who will offer low prices,” said Jackson Kosgei from Moiben, Uasin Gishu County.
Mr Terer disclosed that the board has sold 1.7 million bags of maize valued at Sh2 billion.
“We are currently selling some of the Strategic Food Reserve stocks as part of market stabilisation exercise,” he said.
NCPB was allocated Sh2.7 billion this financial year to buy maize from farmers, a similar amount as last year.
Harvesting of maize in most parts of the North Rift region including Uasin Gishu, Elgeyo-Marakwet and Trans-Nzoia counties began next month and extends to January next year.
Maize prices in the region have plummeted from Sh2,800 to Sh2,100 due to entry of extra produce from Uganda under the liberalised East African Community common market protocol.
SOURCE: BUSINESS DAILY