Traders and consumers are emerging as the key beneficiaries of falling maize prices as farmers rush to sell the produce ahead of next month’s opening of the import window.
The price of a 90kg bag of maize has dropped by at least Sh1,000, leading to a slight reduction in maize flour prices by millers.
Maize prices have dropped from Sh5,800 to Sh4,800 as farmers offload thousands of bags. In turn, the price of flour has declined from Sh2,080 to Sh1,950 per bale ex-factory.
“We have to sell the produce at the present competitive prices considering that the prices are likely to plunge once the imported cereals come into the market,” said James Kosgei from Sergoit, Uasin Gishu County.
The Ministry of Agriculture has allowed traders to import 900,000 tonnes of duty-free white maize and 600,000 tonnes of milled rice from next month up to August.
Farmers in North Rift, where harvesting is still ongoing in some parts, are panic selling to avert possible losses once traders flood the market with cheap imports.
The decline in maize prices is a pain for farmers grappling with rising production costs. For instance, the Kenya Seed Company has increased the cost of maize seed, with a 25-kilogramme bag going for Sh4,700 up from Sh4,500.
“It is becoming increasingly difficult to break the vicious cycle of high production cost against declining market prices,” said Eliud Kibet from Kerita farm in Uasin Gishu.
The country is projected to harvest 30 million bags against an annual consumption of approximately 45 million bags with the imports meant to plug the deficit.
Trans Nzoia County netted an estimated 5.3 million bags of maize while Uasin Gishu is projected to harvest about 4.5 million bags.
The government has embarked on the registration of farmers to benefit from low-cost fertiliser that will be selling at Sh3,500 as compared to Sh6,300 last season.
But the Kenya National Farmers’ Federation (Kenaff) has demanded to be allowed to solely undertake the registration of farmers for the subsidy programme to curb malpractices. The farmers’ umbrella body said it was well placed to carry out the exercise as it already has a register of 1.6 million members countrywide.
“Our core mandate as a federation is to represent, articulate and protect the interest of the farmers of Kenya through lobbying, advocacy, policy action and farmer empowerment,” stated Kenaff in a statement.
The government has set stringent conditions for the registration of farmers who are to benefit from the subsidised fertiliser programmes to weed out impostors.
The farmers are, however, not required to produce land title deeds to ascertain ownership.
“Farmers with lease agreements should be allowed to benefit from the scheme considering that they are major contributors to crop production,” said Kipkorir Menjo, Kenya Farmers Association director.
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi and Interior Principal Secretary Raymond Omollo are heading the implementation of the data collection exercise.