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Reprieve for maize farmers as private millers raise prices

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The National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) premises in Nakuru on May 23, 2018. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Maize prices have improved in most parts of the North Rift region offering a reprieve to farmers who have been struggling to sell their produce at low prices.

Private millers have increased the prices from Sh1,600 to Sh1,800 per 90-kilogramme bag after the government’s announcement that it would be buying at Sh2,500 per bag.

“We expect the prices to increase further after the government stated that it will be buying the crop to the advantage of the farmers,” said Kipngetich Mutai of Ineet millers.

President Uhuru Kenyatta directed the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) last week to buy two million bags of maize at Sh2,500 each.

The farmers had rejected the Sh2,300 per 90 kilogramme bag set by the Ministry of Agriculture, terming it as too low to earn any profit.

The board had offered Sh3,200 per 90 kilogramme bag last year but suspended buying the produce after it exhausted funds.

The NCPB, at the same time, is expected to release 1.7 million bags of maize at Sh1,600 to private millers.

The cereals board had last week said that it was working on logistics in preparation for buying the maize, including holding sensitisation seminars for its staff across the country.

“We are working on logistical issues register of genuine farmers from the Ministry of Agriculture to enable us to start buying the crop,” said Titus Maiyo, the NCPB corporate affairs manager.

Cereal farmers in the region have petitioned the government to review its policy on subsidised farm inputs terming the strategy as counterproductive.

The farmers further called on the government to evaluate the maize subsidy Programme to check on rising flour prices noting that it benefits cartels while hurting investment in the agriculture sector.

“We are not benefitting from the subsidised fertiliser scheme due to cartels and influential personalities who abuse the plan,” said Samuel Ng’etich from Moiben Uasin Gishu County.

Government-subsidised planting fertiliser goes for Sh1,800 and top dressing Calcium Ammonium Nitrate (CAN) costs Sh1,500 but sells at Sh 3,000 in retail markets.

“It is pointless for the government to allocate colossal sums of money for the cheap fertiliser but does not benefit genuine farmers,” said Kipkorir Menjo, Kenya Farmers Association (KFA) director.

He said that since agriculture was devolved function, counties needs to play more role in distribution of farm inputs.

“Counties know who the genuine farmers are and it easy for them to distribute these farm inputs through cooperatives,” said Mr Menjo.

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