State to spend Sh2bn on dryers to avert grain losses

drying maize

Workers spread maize to dry in Elburgon, Nakuru County in November last year. Farmers are set to access dryers to help them dry cereals during the El Nino rains.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The government has released Sh2 billion for the purchase of grain dryers to mitigate against post-harvest losses due to the expected El Nino rains.

Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria said the dyers to be distributed in two weeks will enable farmers to dry their maize even as it rains.

“The President has already instructed the Ministry of Agriculture to ensure they deliver dryers within the next two weeks so that farmers can dry their produce to avoid crop losses,” said Mr Kuria on Friday during the University of Eldoret’s annual agribusiness trade fair.

The government is projecting that maize farmers will have a bumper harvest following the distribution of subsidised fertiliser.

President William Ruto last month said that the 100 dryers will be strategically distributed to various National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) depots countrywide for farmers to hire at affordable rates.

“It is our initial and primary intervention to mitigate post-harvest losses which usually claim as much as 30 per cent of produce harvested, especially with the onset of expected El Nino rains,” said the President.

Cereals growers have been calling on the government to avail more drying equipment at the grass root level to cushion them from losses.

Ruth Kemboi, a wheat farmer and Kenya National Farmers Federation Uasin Gishu chairperson said that the impending rains pose a threat to the food security, noting that it was time to expedite the availability of the drying facilities.

“Already, wheat farmers have started to harvest their crop and others are preparing depending on the varieties as some take three to four months. We really appeal to the government to ensure that these facilities are available to assist maize and wheat farmers,” she said.

According to Timothy Njagi of Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development, the projected heavy rains could result in post-harvest losses higher than the national average of 12 per cent.

“The rains will be a serious threat to the country's food security due to post-harvest losses. The State needs to avail the drying facilities and support farmers with proper storage facilities,” said the expert.

Uasin Gishu County director of agriculture Reuben Seroney said that the devolved unit was projecting a bumper harvest of six million bags compared to 4.5 million bags last season.

“The El Nino rains are a major concern to us and we are requesting for support in terms of availing the drying facilities through the cooperative societies. The drying facilities that we have are not adequate,” explained Mr Seroney.

The Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro) has also advised farmers to harvest their maize crop ahead El Nino rains.

“The farmers should start harvesting early because the projected rains might end up destroying produce or damage quality,” said Kalro Director-General Eliud Kireger.

At the same time, middlemen are cashing in over the government’s delay in releasing funds to purchase maize as farmers’ rush to sell the produce. Traders and brokers have flocked maize growing zones in the North Rift offering Sh4,800 per a 90-kilogram bag.

“The government should consider releasing funds to NCPB and buy maize at competitive rates,” said Kiplimo Arap Rotich from Kiplombe, Uasin Gishu County.

A reliable source at NCPB indicated that the National Treasury has not released funds to enable them start buying the maize.

The government plans to purchase one million bags of maize for the National Food Reserve.

“We are consulting with the National Treasury to avail funds and we shall soon be announcing prices to buy maize from farmers,” said Mr Linturi.