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It was a year to forget for local maize farmers




A maize farmer inspecting her crops. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The year 2018 has been one of the most difficult for maize farmers in the country with challenges ranging from armyworm invasion to relatively low prices offered by the government.

The market was distorted last year when the government imported maize from Mexico to curb the rising cost of the staple, with reports indicating more than six million bags were shipped in by traders.

The move saw farmers stuck with grain as they could not find market for their produce this year, some of whom are yet to sell last season’s crop.

The coming year does not look rosy either as the expected bumper harvest this season and increased imports from Uganda are likely to depress the price. The government is projecting 46 million bags of maize this year, up from 30 million last year.

Currently, the government is embroiled in a fight with farmers on price with the growers rejecting Sh2,300 offered for a 90 kilogramme bag of maize.

Last year, the State paid farmers Sh3,200 per bag. A good number of farmers are currently selling their crop to millers who are offering between Sh1,800 and Sh2,000.

Cereal Growers Association chief executive officer Anthony Kioko said farmers had raised concerns because of the high cost involved in production.

“The price is not fair because farmers are incurring a lot of cost in production and they might not make profit out of the current price,” said Mr Kioko. However, the executive director of Eastern Africa Grain Council Gerald Masila said farmers should not focus on the price but rather cut down on the cost of production.

“The focus should not be on price but rather on the high cost of production,” said Mr Masila.

Farmers in Kenya are still grappling with high cost of production that has seen them lose out in competition with cheap regional grain that come through cross-border trade.

Whereas a bag of 90 kilogramme maize in Uganda costs about Sh1,200 to produce, a farmer in Kenya incurs about Sh2,000, according to studies by Tegemeo.