Cereals board launches new drive to boost maize harvest

Tuesday September 20 2011

By JACOB NGETICH [email protected]

Farmers have reason to smile following a move to ensure they double their harvests.

In the new initiative, farmers will get adequate fertilisers and training on how to improve yields.

The National Cereals and Produce Board managing director Gideon Misoi says they have already embarked on a three-month countrywide campaign to train farmers on improved production, proper and modern post-harvest management and value addition as a way of solving perennial food shortage in the country.

Prof Misoi explains 2.4 million bags of fertiliser will be supplied to farmers by the end of this month.

“We will receive a batch of about 500,000 bags (of fertiliser) by the end of September and we are comfortable the shortage of seeds and fertiliser will not be experienced again,” he told the Nation.

He says the emphasis will be on certified seeds, the right type of fertiliser, and top dressing for cereals.

He adds that modern methods of managing harvest using certified warehouses will save farmers losses by up to 30 per cent.

Many farmers, particularly in Coast, Nyanza, parts of Eastern, Western and parts of Rift Valley and Central provinces do not use fertiliser, says Prof Misoi.

The country has been producing between 20 and 25 million bags of maize, leading to a deficit of 10 million bags.

The board projects that farmers may harvest only 26 million bags of maize this year due to poor rains.

“Some areas such as Narok and Nakuru are currently experiencing heavy rains and this could cut down on production of maize because much of it may rot in the farmers,” says the cereals board boss.

Bridge deficit

He adds: “We are now looking at interventions to encourage farmers to take seriously the second harvest to bridge the deficit that was there in the first harvest.”

Prof Misoi notes that local farmers can easily produce more than 50 million bags even before irrigation if they follow proper farming methods.

“It is embarrassing for the country to continue singing the song of food shortage perennially. This time round we are not taking this lightly, we are planning to bridge the deficit and even beyond,” he says.

He continues: “We are not targeting a particular product like say maize, we are encouraging farmers to work closely with agricultural experts to identify the right product for their regions.”

Kenya National Federation of Agricultural Producers chief executive officer John Mutunga explains the agency is working with the cereals board to bring together small-scale farmers to enable them have a stronger bargaining power.

“By bringing the farmers together, we will cut down on transport as well because they attract buyers to come to them unlike when they operate individually and have to take their produce to the market,” says Dr Mutunga.

This is a move Prof Misoi supports, saying they are encouraging farmers to get into cooperative societies to add value to their produce.

“Since independence, our farmers have been selling maize without any value addition, while we know that if they embrace value addition there would be other accrued benefits like employment of their youths in the milling process,” he says.

To ease the price fluctuation, Prof Misoi says the government has embraced Commodity Exchange Market to help farmers increase profits.

He cites the warehouse system in which farmers deposit their cereals in certified stores and receive receipts for their produce.

“The government has certified several warehouses for storage of cereals. Once they deposit their cereals, farmers are given receipts which are specially designed like cheques,” says Prof Misoi.