A section of Rift Valley leaders have rejected the government’s Sh2,300 offer for a bag maize, vowing that farmers will not accept anything less than Sh3,600 for a 90kg bag.
Four Rift Valley MPs on Friday described the government offer as far below the cost of production and an insult to millions of maize farmers in the country.
MPs Joshua Kutuny (Cherangany), Silas Tiren (Moiben), Alfred Keter (Nandi Hills) and Joshua Kandie (Baringo Central) vowed to rally farmers to reject the approved new price.
The Cabinet on Thursday approved the purchase of maize for Sh2,300 per 90kg bag in a meeting chaired by President Uhuru Kenyatta and attended by his deputy William Ruto.
“The Cabinet today approved the purchase of 2 million bags of maize from farmers at the price of Sh2,300 per 90 kg bag. The maize will be purchased through the National Cereals and Produce Board,” State House announced.
This means the government will spend Sh4.6 billion in buying maize from farmers this harvest season.
The decision affirms the price as had been set by the Strategic Grain Reserves Board two weeks ago.
Last year, the government offered Sh900 more for a 90kg bag of maize, buying grain from farmers at Sh3,200 per bag.
“As MPs from Rift Valley, we are here to say that we have rejected the Sh2,300 per bag. To produce one bag of maize, a farmer invests a lot of money,” Kutuny said.
“If the government wants to realise food security as contained in the Big Four agenda then farmers of thiscountry, who are producers of food, must be prioritised in terms of better prices for their produce.”
Kutuny said they have organised meetings with the farmers to lobby them into rejecting the price.
“We will not relent in the fight for better prices. It is very unfortunate that the government took a decision which goes against farmers’ wishes,” added Keter.
Early this month, two governors from the country’s maize basket counties Jackson Mandago (Uasin Gishu) and Patrick Khaemba said the Sh2,300 offer, which was initially flouted by the Strategic Grain Reserve Board, was unacceptable to the farmers.
“Farmers are producing maize at an average cost of Sh1,800 per bag and if one considers the costs of transport and other issues then they cannot make profit at Sh2,300 per bag,” Mandago said.
Speaking in Eldoret, the two leaders said there was no need for them to sit on the task force if decisions are made without consultations.
“Farmers are producing maize at the cost of averagely Sh1,800 per bag and if one considers the costs of transport and other issues then they cannot make profits at Sh 2,300 per bag,” said Mandago.
“It’s like some people are ignoring the president’s directive on the task force. This is a situation where the same people, want to make the same kind of decisions and then we end up in the same problems that we have been experiencing,” said Mandago.
Present in that meeting were Governor Stanley Kiptis (Baringo) and Deputy Governor for Nandi Dr Yulita Mitei.
“We want to let our farmers know that we are not part of the decision to set the new price,” said Mandago.
However, experts put the cost of producing a 90 kg bag of maize at Sh500 below the government offer with chances of the margin increasing given that most farmers receive government subsidies.
“We did a study this year we were finding that the cost was ranging between Sh1,800 and Sh1,900 to produce a bag of maize but then this is just cost of production, it does not include the margins and access to market. If you want to use cost of production to arrive at the price then data will not support you,” Timothy Njagi, senior researcher at Tegemeo Instititute of Agriculture Policy and Development, told Star.
“Farmers have high expectations because the government has always been buying at a very high premium. For the last five years, government has been buying way above the market price, farmers are mot irrational the government has made them used to that.”