Maize farmers in the North Rift region are counting losses due to lack of market, as local leaders request the government to table the findings of a probe into the current Sh1.9 billion scandal.
Some farmers are holding as much as 3,000 bags of maize, which have been attacked by pests. Already, many cereal growers in the region - which doubles as the country’s food basket - have shifted to the more lucrative wheat and other crops. Their main woes are lack of market, high production costs, and attacks by diseases and pests.
Farmers interviewed said the market is saturated due to flooding by cheap maize from neighbouring countries, adding that cartels have infiltrated the distribution system.
“We have no otherwise but to sell the crop at throw-away prices to manufactures of animal feeds,” said Ms Sarah Kong’ato of Moiben, who has over 1,000 bags of maize.
The government suspended buying of maize from farmers after it exhausted its Sh7.1 billion facility for 2.4 million bags to replenish its grains reserve.
The farmers are demanding about Sh5 billion for maize delivered to National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) last season. Consequently, the farm gate prices have dropped to as low as Sh1,500, from Sh3,000, per 90kg bag, due to lack of market.
Some growers have reduced the acreage under maize and switched to other crops.
As the government redresses the problems facing farmers, mainly infiltration of NCPB by cartels, some large scale growers have become casualties, with their grain rotting in their stores.
Ms Eglyne Chepchirchir Choge, a large scale farmer in Moi’s Bridge, Trans Nzoia County, recounted her frustrations while seeking payment for more than 4,000 bags of maize delivered to NCPB depot.
She said she was paid for 3,000 bags, out of a total 8,000 bags delivered. “It is now difficult to buy top dressing fertiliser. I cannot pay my casual workers, and have resorted to giving them maize for their labour,” said Ms Chepchirchir. Farmer Herman Kiplagat faces similar challenges.
He delivered 300 bags to Moi’s Bridge NCPB but is yet to be paid.
Several NCPB managers have been suspended over the Sh1.9 maize scandal while some cartels have been interrogated by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission.