Maize farmers in the North Rift region who were still storing hundreds of bags in their stores hoping for better prices have been forced to dispose of their produce at throw-away prices.
It is suspected farmers from Uasin Gishu, Trans Nzoia, Elgeyo Marakwet and Nandi were still holding on to more than 800,000 bags of maize in their stores hoping for a hike in price later in the year.
However, following President Uhuru Kenyatta’s directive to the Ministry of Agriculture to clear consignments of Tanzanian imported maize that had been blocked at the Namanga border, following a bilateral meeting between the two countries, the North Rift farmers have panicked and are hastily disposing of their maize.
As a result of the mad rush to dispose of their stock to avoid going at a total loss amid the flooding of the local markets by maize imports into the country, maize prices have sharply plummeted with a 90-kilogramme bag that previously sold at Sh2,700 at the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) is now going at between Sh2,200 and Sh 2,400 in the open market.
A farmer from Ainabkoi Sub-county, Kimutai Kollum, said he was prompted to sell his stock of 200 bags of maize fearing the local market would be flooded with maize imports from the neighbouring countries of Tanzania and Uganda following the President’s directive.
“I had planned to sell my maize in June in the hope of fetching better price but I have had to change the plan after the government lifted the ban on maize imports,” said Kollum.
Another farmer, Jane Maiyo, from Moi’s Bridge asked the government to cushion them from unfair competition, saying it was not the right time to lift the ban on imports since most farmers still have a lot of maize in their stores from last year’s produce.
The middle-men are now taking advantage to buy our maize at a throw-away price because they know the market is about to be saturated with imported maize, lamented Ms Maiyo.
NCPB halted the purchase of maize from farmers after it exhausted Sh1.12 billion allocated by the government last year for maize purchase.
President Kenyatta directed Agriculture Cabinet Secretary (CS), Peter Munya, to ensure the consignments that have been lying at the border are cleared within two weeks.
The Government had in March banned maize from Uganda and Tanzania, raising concerns over high levels of aflatoxin in the grain coming in from these countries.
The President issued the directive during a joint session of Kenya and Tanzanian business community in Nairobi, which was also attended by the visiting Tanzanian President, Suluhu Hassan.
By Kiptanui Cherono