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State changes tack in fighting maize brokers

The government has instituted measures to protect maize farmers from brokers who have for years reaped from the sweat of hapless growers.

In the new strategy, the government has increased the farm gate prices of the commodity in a move that is expected to ensure stability of consumer pricing.

On Wednesday, Agriculture Cabinet secretary Willy Bett announced new prices for maize and tough measures that could see middlemen edged out of the market, or make very low margins.

In the revised pricing, the government, through the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB), will pay farmers Sh2,800 for a 90-kg bag of maize, a price Bett said takes care of the farmers’ interests and ensures stability of flour retail market.

Prior to the announcement, reports indicated that farmers were selling a bag of maize for as low as Sh1,500 to brokers who had invaded homesteads at the onset of harvesting this season that kicked off in July.

“Taking cognisance of a survey by Tegemeo Institute on the cost of maize production, the government will buy maize at Sh2,300 per 90-kg bag based on the cost of production, prevailing market prices and reasonable margin considerations,” he said.

In addition the government, he said, will offer a rebate of Sh500 per bag to cushion the farmer against losses associated with the erratic rains experienced within the season, incident of maize disease outbreaks and increased costs because of higher number of fertiliser applications.

Tegemeo Institute director Mary Mathenge recently warned that farmers are likely to hold onto their produce if brokers bought maize at Sh2,000 then sell for Sh3,000.

“The government should consider a number of factors along the maize value chain before it comes up with any policy. For instance, while putting a price it should consider the cost of production before deciding on a reasonable margin. There is need to strike a balance so that the cost of production is not passed over to the consumer,” she said.

Bett also announced tough conditions that will lock out brokers from doing business with the NCPB and eventually from the value chain.
“To guarantee the revised pricing only benefits genuine farmers, mechanisms are being put in place to ensure that NCPB only buys maize from verifiable farmers. This is to lock out unscrupulous businesspersons who may want to take advantage of this window,” he said.

The CS said registration of farmers is at an advanced stage to enable NCPB to hold an official list of all farmers.“Having 100,000 bags of maize does not mean one is a farmer,” he said.

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