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Govt sets aside KES 2.24B for maize from farmers

20 November 2014, 20:55 Samuel Kisika

Nairobi - Agriculture Cabinet Secretary, Felix Koskey has said the government has sent aside KES 2.24 billion to buy maize from farmers in the 2014/15 financial year for stocking in the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB).

Koskey said his ministry has invited six governors from Bungoma, Trans-Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, West Pokot, Nandi and Elgeyo Marakwet, which are major maize growing counties, to chart way forward in identifying genuine farmers from brokers in preparation for the supply of their produce before the NCPB depots reopens and prices announced.

“Traders who are not necessarily farmers are actually becoming maize stockists. We suspect maize that is coming from neighbouring countries and those purchased from farmers at throw away prices are being stocked in readiness for delivery to NCPB,” Koskey told the Senate Agriculture committee chaired by Meru Senator, Kiraitu Murungi

He said the traders are stockpiling the maize in readiness for NCPB to open its doors in order to deliver them at higher prices.

The Cabinet Secretary said the discussion with the six governors and farmers’ organizations will help the ministry develop a way of ensuring that NCPB buys maize directly from farmers, not middlemen.

“My office has written to governors to help us come up with suggestion and mechanism of identifying real farmers from traders when we decide to buy,” said Koskey in response to a question raised by Trans-Nzoia Senator, Henry Ole Ndiema.

He revealed that the government’s estimate of the 2014 maize production is 34.7 million bags compared to 35.8 million bags produced during the long rains in 2013 while bags for short rains is 5.6 million bags compared to 3.1 million last year.

 “In total, estimated 2014 maize production is 40.3 million bags. The forecast may change compared to actual weather conditions of short rains,” said the CS.

The CS assured the Senate committee that the government has undertaken various reforms to protect local production in the wake of liberalization and open market trade policies.

“The government has undertaken various reforms including tariff, export taxes or subsidies, retention schemes, duty exemptions, import quotas, import bans and import licensing among others in pursuit of liberalization,” he said.

Koskey added that his ministry is currently preparing for maize purchase from farmers and that transfers in depots and silos within major maize growing regions have been undertaken.
“The target transfers are 480,200 bags from silos in Mois Bridge, Eldoret and Kitale and 459,250 bags in depots in Kapenguria, Kitale, Ziwa, Moi’s Bridge, Eldoret, Mosoriot, Kipkarren River, Turbo, Lessos, Lugari, Kapsokwony, Kedowa and Kipkelion,” he said.

However, the CS said the government does not intend to buy the maize form farmers as a long term policy but only intervening to stabilize the prices.

“The situation seems to be that it is the same traders who want to benefit from government intervention by buying maize at prices as low as KES 1 500, maximizing with imports and sale it to NCPB at government determined prices,” said Koskey.

Currently, maize farmers in the maize growing region of Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, Nandi and parts of South Rift are harvesting the long rains crop.

A 90 Kg bag of maize is currently sold at KES 1 400 down from the KES 3 400 three months ago.

Middlemen have taken advantage of the failure by NCPB to open its stores for farmers to deliver their crop.  The NCPB was purchasing a 90 Kg bag of maize from farmers at KES 3 000 in 2013.

The failure by the ministry of agriculture to announce official prices has driven the prices down, leaving farmers at the mercy of exploitative middlemen. The ongoing short rains pounding the North Rift has compounded farmers woes exposing them to post harvest lose.

- MyNews24

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