KENYA – Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi has announced that the government will purchase 1 million bags of maize, at KES 4,000 (US$26.8) per 90kg bag.

Linturi was speaking when he appeared before the Senate Agriculture Committee on October 12 to deliberate on measures being taken by the government to address issues in the agricultural sector.

This comes after farmers decried exploitation by middlemen, who were buying their produce at throwaway prices following the government’s delay in announcing the minimum price for a 90kg bag.

Earlier, cereal producers in North Rift, 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.

However, Linturi has set the record straight, stating that the National Cereals and Produce Board will buy the maize for the National Strategic Food Reserve.

“We will be buying the maize from registered farmers who are in our database. NCPB stores are ready to take in maize,” he said.

The Cabinet Secretary also added that the government has already ordered mobile dryers that will assist farmers in drying their grains before purchase by the government.

The dryers, Linturi said, will assist farmers in reducing post-harvest losses by ensuring that their maize is properly dried and stored.

“The mobile dryers will enable farmers to preserve the quality of their maize and increase their income. This is a significant development, as post-harvest losses have been a major challenge for farmers in the past,” he added.

The announcement comes just days after President William Ruto banned the importation of maize and wheat into the country to protect local farmers.

The President also stated that the government has already set aside KES 4 billion (US$26.8M)  to buy maize from farmers.

To reduce post-harvest losses over high moisture, the Head of State announced that NCPB driers will be used to dry farmers’ maize at a minimal fee of KES 50 per 90kg bag compared to the high fee of KES 400 per bag that was previously being paid by farmers.

Even if farmers don’t want to sell their maize to NCPB, they will have an opportunity to dry their produce at the State agency and store it,” said the President.