Maize worth tens of millions rotting away in North Rift

BY BUSINESS DAILY

Maize produce worth millions of shillings is going to waste in the North Rift due to lack of market after the government suspended buying the crop from farmers.

Tonnes of the crop have been attacked by pests and moulds due to lack of proper storage facilities as farmers struggle to find alternative market.

“I harvested over 3,000 bags but managed to sell only 1,000 bags to the National Cereals and Produce Board before it closed shop,” said Jackson Too from Moiben Uasin Gishu County.

The government stopped buying maize from farmers after it attained capacity to replenish Strategic Grains Reserve (SGR) this season, according to Crops Development Permanent Secretary Richard Lesiyampe. Sh. 7.1 billion was allocated to buy 2.4 million bags but the government has already exceeded the target.

Some cartels are suspected to have imported cheap maize and sold it to NCPB at the expense of genuine farmers. Farmers are demanding about Sh4 billion for maize deliveries to the board.

Private millers in the region have also scaled down buying maize due to declined demand for flour, further complicating issues for farmers who are struggling to plant this season’s crop.

“Our remaining market option was the millers after we were turned away by cereals board but most of them are no longer accepting our produce since there is plenty in the market at low rates,” said Wilson Too from Chepkumia, Nandi County.

Some of the millers have been forced to scale down operations as the demand for the sifted maize flour in the market drops drastically.

“We have no option but reduce our operations and possibly consider restricting due to low demand for our products by consumers,” said Kipgnetich Kimutai of Ineet Mills in Eldoret.

Some of the farmers have opted to selling their produce to animal feed manufacturers as maize and wheat prices reduce due to oversupply.

“We can now mill our own animal feeds from the low cost maize and wheat produce that has cut down milk production costs,” said Joshua Melly from Cheboite, Nandi County.

Wheat prices have dropped from Sh. 3,600 to Sh. 2,800 per bag while that of maize has plummeted to Sh. 1,800 from Sh. 2,600 as farmers rush to sell the produce to avert further losses.

The farmers have petitioned the government to hand over the NCPB functions to the county government since agriculture is a devolved function.

They said decentralisation of NCPB will safeguard it from mismanagement of funds meant to pay for produce and distribution of subsidised farm inputs.

“Governors and county officials understand farmers in their jurisdiction and need to be given an upper hand on management of NCPB for delivery of quality services,” said Kipkorir Menjo, Kenya Farmers Association (KFA) director during a farmers meeting in Eldoret.

They claimed the suspension of eight top NCPB officials, including the resignation of the chief executive Newton Terer was a scheme by some influential officials in government to cover up massive corruption in the board.

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