Business

Farmers to tap millers

Growers say cartels are taking advantage of their absence to buy wheat cheaply

Wheat farmers in Narok County want millers to start buying their produce to stabilise prices of the commodity.

They say that within two weeks middlemen have dropped prices from Sh2,500 to Sh2,000 per 90 kg bag reducing their profit margins.

The farmers say that if millers start purchasing the commodities, they would stabilise prices. The farmers said yesterday that they would sell the wheat at Sh3,500 a bag since production cost per acre rose from Sh11,000 two years ago to Sh18,000 this year, adding that prices offered by middlemen were not commensurate with the production costs.

“Middlemen are taking advantage of the absence of millers and slow government intervention to exploit farmers who desperately need money to service loans, among other commitments,” said their spokesperson Lekina Kameto.

He said adequate rains between March and May, coupled with good crop husbandry, meant there will be a bumper harvest.

Agriculture ministry officials estimate farmers in Nkorinkori and Ololulunga are harvesting an average of 20 bags per acre this season.

Last year, farmers harvested an average of seven bags per acre due to pests infestations and diseases, stem rust and erratic rainfall.

Kameto, who is a large-scale farmer in Ololulunga and also the national secretary Cereals Growers Association (CGA), asked the government to open National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) for farmers to store their produce to cut post-harvest losses.

“Because of favourable weather, the harvest is good, therefore NCPB depots should be accessed by all farmers to cut losses,” he said, adding that NCPB dryers should also be availed to them free of charge because during the cold weather, moisture content was above normal.

“Access to storage will also help farmers keep their produce until prices improve,” he said.

They also asked the government to actualise Warehouse Receipting System (WRS) regime to end years of exploitation by middlemen and millers.

The system which was launched eight years ago was supposed to enable farmers to store their produce in NCPB depots and use storage receipts as collaterals to finance farming as they waited for prices of commodities in the markets to improve.

Farmers were to pay subsidised storage fees until they offloaded their produce to the markets.

This year, farmers cultivated additional acres because they accessed loans using title deeds as collateral with the State waiving Sh1.2 billion in accumulated loans.

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