Maize farmers in the North Rift region are major beneficiaries of the payment made for produce delivered to the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) after they received the lion’s share of the money.
NCPB depots in the region received Sh543 million out of the Sh978 million released by the government to pay farmers who supplied 650 bags and below after waiting to be paid for more than eight months.
“The funds have already been dispatched to our depots with the North Rift receiving Sh543 million while the balance of Sh435 million will be shared by the rest of the depots countrywide. The payment process is ongoing,” said Mr Titus Maiyo, the NCPB corporate affairs manager.
The money was meant for farmers owed Sh2 million and below by the board.
The government has pledged to settle Sh1.4 billion out of the outstanding Sh3.5 billion for maize delivered to NCPB depots to replenish the country’s strategic food reserve.
But the maize farmers want the government to assure them of market for this season’s crop and announce the price it will offer for the produce.
“We are not worried about the balance of Sh2.1 billion the government owes farmers since that can be handled by the supplementary budget. Our main concern is market for this season’s crop,” said Mr Kipkorir Menjo, the Kenya Farmers Association director.
NCPB bought the produce at Sh3,200 last season after it was allocated Sh7.1 billion, but the budget was slashed to Sh1.4 billion in the 2018/2019 financial year.
Maize farmers in the region have started harvesting this season’s crop as they continue to grapple with more than 500,000 bags of last year’s yield.
The maize prices have declined to as low as Sh1,000 per 90kg bag due to flooding of the market with cheap imports.
This has resulted in some farmers selling their produce to animal feed manufacturers as maize and wheat prices depreciate due to oversupply of produce that has outstripped demand.
“We can now mill our own animal feeds from the low-cost maize and wheat produce that has led to a drop in milk production costs,” said Mr Joshua Melly from Cheboite, Nandi County.
Private millers have also not been spared by the deteriorating prices as the cost of maize flour has reduced with a 2kg packet selling at Sh75 in most retails outlets. Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri directed millers and traders to sell a packet of flour at Sh75 to protect consumers against exploitation.
Some of the millers had increased the maize flour prices by Sh4 to cushion them against losses following the enactment of the eight per cent fuel levy. “The cheap maize flour is a ploy by the government to divert the attention of Kenyans from economic hardships due to the effects of the Finance Bill 2018,” said Mr Joshua Too from Saos in Nandi County.
But most consumers are now opting for posho mill flour which they consider cheaper than that from the millers. “I buy a 2kg packet of maize at Sh50 and mill at Sh10 which is cost effective,” said Ms Rhoda Cheptoo from Ainet, Uasin Gishu County.
The government suspended the Sh8 billion maize subsidy programme at the end of last year. This had been introduced to lower maize flour prices that had skyrocketed to Sh150 a packet.
During the subsidy period, the government was buying imported maize at Sh3,600 per 90kg bag and selling it to millers at Sh2,300.
The millers who benefit from the scheme were then required to sell the flour at Sh90 per packet.