KENYA- Maize producers in the North Rift region of Kenya are urging the government to instruct the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) to open its storage facilities and enable direct purchases of the current season’s harvests. 

These farmers, currently engaged in harvesting, express concerns about the impending El Niño rains, which they fear will pose challenges for drying their crops during heavy downpours.

The Kenya Meteorological Department had previously issued warnings about heavy rainfall between October and December this year, particularly in several regions of the country, including the critical grain-producing areas of Uasin Gishu and Trans Nzoia. 

This weather phenomenon is attributed to El Niño, and it is anticipated that the long rains will commence in September and continue through January of the following year.

Some farmers are also voicing dissatisfaction with the low prices offered for maize by intermediaries, as NCPB stores remain closed. These farmers are calling for a minimum price of KES 5,500 for a 90-kilogram bag of maize.

Thomas Boen, a prominent large-scale farmer, emphasizes that reopening NCPB storage facilities would not only provide farmers access to drying facilities offered by the State entity but also help deter the sale of maize to exploitative middlemen who have flocked to the region. 

Boen contends that these middlemen are taking advantage of farmers in what appears to be a concerted effort to manipulate the maize sector.

Boen highlights concerns about millers and middlemen using alleged high aflatoxin levels in farmers’ produce as a pretext to compel them to sell their maize at significantly reduced prices. 

He argues that this situation poses a serious challenge and calls for intervention by the President and the Agriculture cabinet secretary to address what he believes is a deliberate tactic to subject hardworking farmers to financial losses.

Farmers assert that contrary to buyers’ claims, their maize is of good quality and is purchased by other buyers. They are urging leaders to find solutions to this issue and determine whether their produce indeed contains high aflatoxin levels and, if so, the reasons behind it.

They are advocating for standardized prices for their crops, direct government purchase, and future price regulation, as is practiced in neighboring countries. 

They believe this approach would protect farmers from exploitation by middlemen and create more stable and secure markets.

David Some, another farmer, emphasizes the importance of securing fair compensation for farmers who contribute to national food security. He stresses the need for a country where farmers’ contributions are respected and protected.

Farmers also cite the high costs incurred in the maize production process, including fuel, spare parts, topdressing, and shelling, along with labor expenses. To avoid losses, they are seeking a minimum price of KES5,500 per 90-kilogram bag of maize.

Jael Murgor highlights challenges faced by farmers in accessing subsidized fertilizers, which led some to purchase inputs at higher prices from retail stores. She calls for better maize prices, suggesting KES8,000 per 90-kilogram bag as a fair rate. 

Additionally, she urges the government to prepare early and ensure timely availability of fertilizers for the upcoming season.

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