Maize farmers in the North Rift region are staring at heavy losses as the price of the commodity plummets due to the arrival of imported duty-free cereals.
The disillusioned farmers have resorted to hawking the staple with the prices nose-diving from Sh5,300 to Sh4,000 per 90-kilogramme bag. Prices are expected to decline even further as millers are reluctant to buy maize due to limited storage space.
“Millers’ stores are flooded with maize and some are reluctant to purchase our grains. It is unfortunate that our leaders are reluctant to fight for our welfare,” Mr Isaac Malongo said in Lugari, Kakamega County.
The Ministry of Agriculture has maintained that the 900,000 tonnes or 10 million bags of duty-free maize will be released to the market as planned to check an acute shortage of the staple.
The Principal Secretary at State Department for Crop Development Kello Harsama said licensed traders are expected to provide the maize to enable the country have sufficient stocks.
The Ministry of Agriculture has allowed traders to import 900,000 tonnes of white maize and 600,000 tons of milled maize from this month up to August.
The National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) has bought 30,000 bags of maize worth Sh84.9 million as farmers rush to deliver the produce to the board due to prompt payment. NCPB is seeking 60,000 50-kilo bags of maize on behalf of the World Food Programme (WFP) NCPB corporate communications manager Titus Maiyo said .
Most millers and middlemen are buying the produce at Sh4,200 per 90-kilo bag as compared to Sh2,830 per 50-kilo bag offered the government agency.
A spot check at the NCPB Eldoret depot indicated long queues of farmers delivering the produce in a stiff competition with millers and traders.
The high prices locked out the NCPB from purchasing the crop this season on commercial purposes.
The agency sought Sh10.3 billion last financial year for emergency food stocks but it faced stiff competition from millers and traders who offered better prices and prompt payments.
It was to purchase three million bags of maize at Sh7.56 billion and 50,000 bags of beans at Sh405 million to stock its National Food Reserve.
Maize production is estimated at 3.2 million metric tonnes annually against a consumption rate of 3.8 million metric tonnes.
Millers and middlemen have raised the prices from Sh4,800 to Sh5,200 by 90 Kg to bolster their stock to the relief of farmers who have for the last two years suffered low prices for their produce.
“Stiff competition [for maize] between millers and NCPB that has pushed the prices to record highs to the advantage of growers, who require capital to invest in the next” said mr Jackson Kosgey from Ziwa.