AGRIBUSINESS: North Rift maize farmers call for better produce prices

Farmers addressing the press in Eldoret town led by Moiben legislator Silas Tiren. PHOTO/Edmond Kipngeno/The Scholar Media Africa.

North Rift region is known as the leading producer of maize in Kenya. Trans-Nzoia County tops the list, followed by Uasin Gishu County. 

Over the years maize farmers have been experiencing challenges such as poor maize prices and high costs of production. 

In a bid to tame the challenges, the farmers, led by the Agriculture Committee chairman in the national assembly Silas Tiren, have called on the government to ensure there is controlled importation of maize.  Tiren asked the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) to base their prices on the cost of production.

He also asked the board to reveal the criteria used before arriving at the current maize prices. 

“We need to look into ways we can control the importation of maize so that we cannot have maize with aflatoxin and market exploitation,” said Tiren. 

Cost of production

According to Tiren, the high cost of production has been hurting the farmers. 

He said it was necessary for the prices to be increased by the board to meet the farmers’ cost of production. He also championed for subsidized farming input. 

“Farm inputs have very high taxes and there is need for them to be tax-free for the benefit of maize farmers in this country,” added Tiren.

Kenya Farmers Association (KFA) chairperson, Kipkorir Menjo, said policy interventions should be put in place. 

“I want to ask the government to ensure that the high cost of farm inputs such as fertilizers is reduced. This can happen by ensuring that policy measures have been put in place and adhered to,” said Menjo.

Menjo, who has been on the limelight advocating for better maize prices in the North Rift region, asked the government to buy at least 2 Million bags of 90 Kg of maize.

He said that farmers had a bumper harvest in the last harvest season. 

David Kiprono Kiberenge, representing the cooperative movement, said that the Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture, Peter Munya, while assuming public office had vowed to settle the farmers’ woes. 

Kiberenge is now worried that the CS has since gone silent on the matter as farmers continue to go through unprecedented challenges amidst climate change. 

“Prices for maize should not be less than Ksh. 3,400 per 90 Kg bag. This is when we can get the value of our money,” said Kiberenge. 

According to Kiberenge, meeting with president Uhuru Kenyatta should be a lasting solution so that the matter can be settled once and for all. 

Farmers vowed to keep off the leadership which does not give them support by championing for their affairs, such as fair prices of their agricultural produce. 

This comes as the country is preparing for elections this year.

They said that food security is essential in the country and the need to purchase farmers’ maize by the cereals board at a very fair price should not be debated on.  

Thomas Boen, a maize farmer from Turbo constituency in Uasin Gishu County said that the government should intervene as the production cost of maize is very high yet the prices of the harvested maize are so low. 

“Farmers are actually operating at a loss because the cost for farm inputs and fuel for tractors is too high,” said Boen. 

Harman Kiprotich wants policies to be put in place to ensure that an improvement of maize prices is effected.

According to North Rift NCPB Manager, Gilbert Rotich, “the maize we are actually purchasing at the moment is for commercial purposes and we are actually going with the market force.”

He said that at the end of it, they are going to sell the maize to consumers.

“If we purchase the maize at the higher price at the moment, the consumer will be forced to buy the same maize at a very high price,” said Rotich.

He asked the farmers to utilize the silos as they provide the services which are convenient to them.

“I want to ask the farmers to use the cereals silos because they are very safe and protect the grains from contamination,” added Rotich.

At the NCPB silos, the prices which were announced on November 17th last year were Ksh. 1305 per 50 Kg.

Later on in the following month of December, the NCPB announced that they were now open to purchase the maize at the price of Ksh. 2700 per 90 Kg.

NCPB has been reviewing the maize prices upwards after realizing that farmers opt to sell their maize to the willing buyer at a better price as compared to the board.

On 29th last month, the NCPB reviewed the maize purchasing price to Ksh. 3000 from Ksh. 2700.

Farmers are saying that the prices are still low and require another review upwards. Millers are purchasing maize directly from farmers at a price of about Ksh. 3300 per 90 Kg.

At the moment farmers are purchasing fertilizers at Ksh. 3,500 for CAN and Ksh. 5,000 for DAP. 

“We are very worried as maize farmers because the prices of the inputs escalated so much. Some opted to shy away from planting maize due to its high cost of production,” said Boen.

According to NCPB Managing Director Joseph Kimote, the payments are being done within 24 hours after the farmer delivers maize to their silos.

“There are no administrative conditions for the farmers to deliver to the NCPB as long as the produce meets the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) grade I and grade II,” read a statement from Kimote.

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