KENYA – Maize farmers in North Rift have lamented over the price of maize which they say has dropped drastically over the past few days, forcing them to sell their harvests at throw-away prices as they wait for the government to announce minimum price.  

Despite repeated promises by the State to announce producer prices, farmers’ patience is running out, with traders flocking to the region offering throwaway prices at the farm gate.

Speaking to The Standard, cereal producers in the country’s grain basket said middlemen are offering prices ranging between KES3,500 (US$23.47) and KES3,900 (US$26. 16) per 90kg bag, noting that the prices could have stabilized if the government had set current season producer price.

They said with the high rate at which some farmers are disposing of maize to meet financial needs, stocks could be depleted and the government may even lack grain for purchase through the National Cereals and Produce Board.

This comes after President Ruto gave an ultimatum to millers, banning them from importing wheat and maize as a measure to protect local farmers.

In a statement, President Ruto said that the move is aimed at protecting local farmers and stabilizing prices.

The President pointed out that the Government has set aside KES4 billion (US$27M) to purchase maize from farmers through the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) this season.

Last week, then Principal Secretary of State Department for Crops in the Ministry of Agriculture Kello Harsama reassured farmers that the government would announce maize producer prices within the week.

Mr Harsama, who has since been moved to the Asal and Regional Development Ministry, had promised NCPB stores would open their doors to receive supplies once the producer price is declared.

“Farmers should be on standby because any time, the price will be announced. The government will factor in operation and input costs before determining the price to ensure producers earn good returns,” said Harsama.

He cautioned farmers not to rush in selling their produce to middlemen and instead wait for the government deal.

Farmers, therefore have urged the State to declare the producer price without further delay to help stabilize market prices and enable them to plan well for the next planting season.

They also expressed fear that businessmen, some of whom are buying and exporting local maize produce to as far as Rwanda at lucrative prices, could cause a food deficit next year unless the government stocks NCPB stores.