• President Uhuru Kenyatta directed the cereals board to buy maize for Sh2,500
• Maize growers harvested at least 40m bags last season. It is estimated they still have more than 25m bags in their stores.
The price of maize has risen to Sh3,200 per bag in the North Rift after farmers refused to sell their produce cheaply to the cereals board and millers.
The National Cereals and Produce Board had budgeted Sh5 billion to buy two million bags of maize for Sh2,500 each. So far, the board has bought less than 300,000 bags. Millers have complained of a shortage of maize.
On January 10 President Uhuru Kenyatta directed the board to buy maize for Sh2,500. However, farmers rejected the price, saying it was too low compared to the production costs they incurred.
Farmers want the government to review the price. They are also demanding that all their maize from the last harvest be bought. The prolonged drought is threatening to deplete reserves.
"We are asking the state not to start importing maize yet but to increase prices at the NCPB. Buy all the maize in farmers' stores," Moiben MP Sila Tiren said during a farmers' meeting in Eldoret.
Tiren, together with Kenya Farmers Association director Kipkorir Menjo, said the government has ignored farmers’ issues for long, leading to a crisis.
“We are happy the market forces are now controlling the prices. But we caution the government not to resort to maize importation to sabotage farmers again," he said.
The MP told Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri to take farmers' issues seriously. Farmers are frustrated by government's slow intervention, Tiren said.
He said last year the government allowed the importation of maize at Sh3,900 per bag but farmers were paid a meagre Sh2,000.
“We wonder why the government is ready to spend more on importation but when it comes to paying farmers, they receive peanuts for their hard work. The government gets its priorities wrong," Tiren said.
Farmer John Koech said they are monitoring the way the government would deal with the issue of maize importation. “We want to see if they care about us this time around," he said.
Maize growers harvested at least 40 million bags last season. It is estimated that they still have more than 25 million bags in their stores. The cereals board has more than four million bags in its stores.
Last week Kiunjuri said the country has enough maize but there are fears that the prolonged drought would cause a shortage, leading to importation.
Edited by Pamela Wanambisi