Farmers in North Rift are having difficulty selling their maize as the market has been flooded with the commodity, resulting in a decline in prices.
This comes at a time when some Kenyans are faced with starvation.
The farmers have dismissed the warehouse receipt system introduced by the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) as ineffective in tackling problems facing the grain sector.
Maize prices in most parts of the region have dropped from Sh3,400 per 90 kilogrammes to Sh2,700 following the harvest of this season’s crop.
“What we require is sufficient capital to enable farmers to access adequate credit facilities and invest in modern crop production,” said Mr Michael Koech from Moiben in Uasin Gishu County.
Farmers who deliver maize to NCPB under the warehouse receipt system are offered Sh3,000 per 90 kilogrammes of maize.
According to NCPB public relations manager Evans Wasike, the board has purchased almost 40,000 bags of maize in the North Rift region under the Strategic Grain Reserve programme.
“We expect the deliveries to increase as more farmers begin to harvest this season’s produce,” said Mr Wasike.
The board has purchased an additional 60,000 bags of maize in the South Rift at a cost of Sh3,000 per 90-kilogramme bag while middlemen are offering Sh2,700.
Retailers who were interviewed attributed the decline in maize prices to a bumper harvest last season due to favourable weather conditions and importation of the grain from a neighbouring country under the Common Market Protocol.
The ongoing harvesting of maize in parts of the North Rift region has also contributed to a market glut and consequent drop in prices.
At the same time, the grain farmers said there might be a decline of acreage under maize this season due to high cost of farm inputs and increased fuel prices.
Some farmers are planning to diversify into horticulture, dairy farming and fish farming, which they consider to be more lucrative.
“It is no longer profitable to invest in grain production when the returns are low amid the rising cost of living,” said Mr James Too, a large-scale farmer from Uasin Gishu County.
Poor roads have added to the farmers’ miseries. This is hampering their efforts to access markets for their agricultural produce.
“The ongoing heavy rains pounding the region will reverse the gains of the expected high yields as most crops will rot on the farms,” said Mr Joshua Kiptoo, an agricultural expert in Eldoret.