Farmers in South and North Rift regions are still holding last year’s maize even as this season’s crop in the neighbouring former Western province is being offloaded to the market.
Demands from consumers and millers for the new harvest has frustrated farmers’ hopes that last year’s maize would soon find its way to the market. A 90-kilogramme bag that was until February this year being bought by National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) at Sh3,000 has dropped to Sh1,600.
Due to poor post-harvest handling, most of the grain in farmers stores have been destroyed by weavils, termites, rodents and high moisture content.
“Consumers and millers only want the new harvest from Lugari, Kakamega and other parts of former Western province. We do not know where we will sell last year’s harvest,” says Ernest Tormoi, from Mois Bridge area in Uasin Gishu.
He says bumper harvest is expected this season.
“There will be a lot of maize in the market from next month. Where will farmers sell their produce?” he posed, adding that even animal feeds manufacturers are no longer buying old maize.
Most farmers desperately tried to sell their green maize between July and last month to beat market and storage challenges but the demand, especially from manufacturers, was low, he says.
“Some who were lucky sold green maize to traders at Sh20,000 per acre instead of between Sh70,000 and Sh50,000,” says Tormoi whose crop in 155 acres field has dried up and is ready for harvest.
Because of perennial frustrations in finding markets for their produce, there is fear that acreage under maize will shrink next year.
“Maize farming has become a non-profitable venture. Most farmers borrow money to finance farming but are unable to settle the loans because of poor produce prices. Most will likely resort to rearing cattle for milk and meat which will jeopardise national food security,” says John Siparo, a large-scale farmer in Kirindoni in Transmara where harvesting ended last month.
He says the current prices will plummet further in December when all maize will have been harvested.
NCPB is yet to fully pay farmers for December to February deliveries, compounding farmers woes.
Francis Menjo, a farmers rights’ activist in Uasin Gishu, says banks and Agricultural Finance Corporation (AFC) where farmers borrowed loans to finance the 2017 production were on the verge of auctioning defaulters’ land and other property.
“The government should inherit loans especially for those who borrowed from AFC. It should do so because maize buying by NCPB was riddled with malpractices which favoured the rich,” he says.