KENYA – Grain farmers can now dry their products effectively following the National Cereal and Produce Board’s (NCPB) move to provide drying facilities and operational laboratories to their proximities.

According to the NCPB, the move is a relief to cereal farmers as it will cushion them from losses as a result of the expected El Nino which threatens to wipe out the grains from the expected bumper harvest.

The facilities are envisioned to provide cereal farmers with drying, cleaning, grading, storage, and aflatoxin testing facilities at the depots.

This, according to NCPB will reduce post-harvest losses due to poor storage facilities.

Joseph Kimote, NCPB Managing Director disclosed that the board was operating fixed and mobile dryers to cushion farmers from post-harvest losses due to humidity. Which affects fungal damage to crops.

This move comes after the government released KES 2 billion (US$13M) for the purchase of dryers to be distributed to farmers to dry their maize as a cushion to the expected climatic phenomenon.

During the commissioning, NCPB also unveiled additional laboratories to test aflatoxin levels in food crops to ensure they meet standards approved by the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) to safeguard consumers from the toxin.

Mr. Kimote said that the board has set up laboratories in depots in Meru, Kitale, Eldoret, Nakuru, and Machakos to enable farmers and millers across the nation to access low-cost testing aflatoxin.

According to WHO, Kenya has one of the highest rates of aflatoxin exposure in the world.

As a mitigation measure, KEBS set up a standards committee that included the Ministry of Agriculture Health and Trade, NCPB, KARLO, the East African Grain Council (EAGC), and millers among others to assess the impact of aflatoxin on food products.

According to Dr. Geoffrey Muriira, KEBS’ Director of Quality Assurance, the agency has imposed strict conditions on aflatoxin levels as it embarks on a sensitization process to ensure millers and agro-processors adhere to the required standards.

Dr. Muriira revealed that the lack of reagents for aflatoxin analysis has been a challenge to most millers hence the commissioned laboratory will bridge the gap.

“Millers have been facing a shortage of reagents despite investing over KES 1 million to buy machines to test for aflatoxin as part of the conditions set by KEBS,” said Dr. Eliud Kireger, the Director General of KARLO.

Government to set aside US$27M to purchase maize from farmers

Meanwhile, the government plans to set aside KES4 billion (US$27M) to purchase maize from farmers through the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) this season.

The move is aimed at mitigating price fluctuations as maize farmers across the country expect a bumper harvest in the current season set to hit its peak.

Furthermore, the Cabinet noted the importance of supporting farmers in drying and storing the produce to mitigate post-harvest losses.

Earlier, Harsama Kello, the Crop Development Principal Secretary announced that the state expects maize harvests of over 40 million bags in the current harvesting season, which will play a pivotal role in lowering the prices of food.

According to the PS, the anticipated bumper harvest was boosted by sufficient rainfall during the long-rain planting season and a State-backed fertilizer subsidy program.