Farmers and other stakeholders in the wheat industry have pushed for more varieties to expand the growing of the crop beyond traditional zones.
The stakeholders also called for more incentives and reforms in the sector such as lowering the cost of farm inputs to improve on production. Over the years, high cost of farm inputs, climate change, land fragmentation, pests and diseases as well poor handling of the grain have negatively impacted on wheat production.
Kenya imports up to 90 per cent of its wheat from global markets such as Ukraine and Russia, with local production accounting for 10 per cent. Currently, imported wheat retails at Sh5,706 per 90 kilogram bag while local wheat retails for Sh5,295 per 90 kilos amid scarcity of the grain in the global markets.
Wheat growers, experts and industry players converged for a two-day Wheat Expo organised by Nation Media Group at Central Primary School grounds in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County, to deliberate on how to improve wheat production in the country. The theme for this year’s event, which ends today, is ‘Growing wheat sustainably for a healthier and wealthier nation.’
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Some of the stakeholders that participated included Unga Limited, Cereal Millers Association, Kenya Seed Company, NCBA Bank Group, TechnoServe, Moi University Pension Scheme and Eldoret Technical Training Institute.
Other participants were CMC motors and CFAO Kenya, who used the opportunity to showcase their tractors to farmers from different parts of the country that attended the event.
Ruth Kemboi, the Kenya National Farmers Federation Uasin Gishu chairperson, said that market for the produce was a challenge compounded by high cost of production as well as pests and diseases.
“Our main challenge as wheat farmers is that we have to grapple with diseases such as wheat rust and a variety of fungal diseases,” said Ms Kemboi, adding that this season, most farmers decided to plant maize due to the high costs of inputs.
Elphas Kessio, Uasin Gishu County chief officer in charge of agriculture, urged farmers to adopt modern technologies and practices to improve production of the crop.
“Our soils have become acidic, leading to low yields because farmers have been planting maize and wheat for many years, which leads to soil diseases. The land for wheat is also shrinking, we are working to formulate a policy on land use to ensure that we protect the agricultural land,” the county official noted.
Kenneth Nyamu, the production manager at Unga Limited, noted that millers are struggling to get the commodity amidst the weak shilling and shortage of dollars in the market.
“What we need is the government to provide incentives to our farmers so that we have more growing the crop,” stated Mr Nyamu.
Most millers have in the past raised concerns over the quality of wheat that is locally grown due to low bushel weight and infestation by foreign matter among other issues.
Kipchumba Ngetich, the Operations manager, Kenya Seed Company, Nakuru, cautioned farmers against buying uncertified seeds, which result in poor germination rate.
“We only sell quality seeds that have been approved by Kephis, and which have a germination rate of over 85 per cent,” he said.
Mr Herbert Githu, NCBA Group Bank senior manager, corporate banking, assured farmers that the financial institution was keen to support them to improve on production.
“We are ready to support our farmers by providing financial assurance to enable them to increase yields,” said Mr Githu, inviting the farmers to learn more about their various financial solutions