State withdraws charges for drying maize at NCPB

The government has waived charges farmers pay to dry their produce at the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB), a move intended to avert potential losses resulting from the increasingly wet weather.

Farmers will enjoy the waiver once the Treasury releases funds for the purchase of grain meant for the strategic grain reserve from the current crop.

Johnson Irungu, director of Crops in the Ministry of Agriculture, says the move will cushion farmers from possible losses and possibly allow them to make a profit from the crop.

“We have waived the drying charges that farmers normally pay at the NCPB in order to protect their grain from going to waste,” said Dr Irungu.

The director said official communication will be made to farmers once the funds have been released to the board for the purchase.

A farmer can incur drying charges of at least Sh250 for every 90 kilogramme bag of maize, cutting margins significantly.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) maize is usually harvested when its moisture content is in the range of 18 to 24 per cent. NCPB has been charging S4 for reducing moisture by a single percentage point for every 90 kilogramme bag of maize dried.

Dr Irungu said the maize being received at the NCPB currently has moisture content above the recommended standards.

He said losses expected from the ongoing rains will rise to 15 per cent from the normal 10 per cent.

“We expect a small increase in terms of the grain losses as a result of the rains that are pounding in most parts of the country,” he said.

He, however, commended farmers for harvesting their grains before the rains started, helping reduce anticipated losses.

The high moisture content is a result of the ongoing rains in most parts of the country, which have coincided with the harvesting season in the country’s grain basket of North Rift.

Millers have already raised concern over the low quality of grain they are receiving from their suppliers.

NCPB is buying maize at Sh2,300 per  90 kilogramme bag using the proceeds from the sale of old grain following delays in release of Sh2.7 billion from the Treasury.

This will enable it to buy about 800,000 bags, way below the more than two million bags the board bought last year.

Farmers delivering their grain at the moment are not benefiting from the waiver as this will be implemented after the board gets funds from the Treasury.