The Chairman of the South Rift Farmers Association Justus Monda has decried the inflated prices of farming inputs and the high cost of labour that has resulted in continued reduction of maize production in the country.
Speaking today during a press conference at his Viwanda office, Monda said apart from the delayed rains and climate change, the high farming cost in the country has not been adequately addressed.
He said planting one acre of maize requires a minimum of Sh10, 000, an amount which most of the smallholder farmers, who own between two and five acres cannot afford.
The chairman appealed to the government to streamline and simplify the distribution of subsidized fertilizer, claiming that in most cases, wealthy households were given preference to the vulnerable farmers who required it most.
He suggested reducing the quantity of subsidized fertilizer to the bare minimum to make wealthy farmers shy away from it and enable poorer households to acquire the government-funded fertilizer.
In addition, he said the long queues, high cost of fare, transportation of the fertilizer from the NCPB to the farms and the tedious process were constantly a discouragement to the vulnerable farmers.
However, he said despite their meagre resources, the smallholder farmers produce 40 per cent of the maize consumed in the country, and they have the capacity of producing more if they were supported according to their needs.
In addition, he said maize was the most affordable source of calories among the cereal grains, and it’s consumed by both the rich and poor, which makes it a basic food that cannot be ignored.
But, a maize researcher from the Njoro Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) John Wachira said local maize farmers were producing below capacity due to poor farming practices.
He noted that an acre of maize was supposed to produce a minimum of 28 bags and a maximum of 40 bags. Adding that last year, the production of maize declined from 44 million bags to 42.1 million bags, and he blamed the farmers for the continued decline.
By Veronica Bosibori