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February 22, 2019

Maize farmers penniless as ugali lovers pile plates

Farmers sorting spoilt maize.
Farmers sorting spoilt maize.

The year 2018 has been good for ugali lovers but bad for Kenya’s maize farmers, a researcher has said.

 It is even getting better for consumers, as the price of a 2kg packet of unga is currently retailing at Sh75, following a government’s directive to reduce the price due to a surplus of maize in the country.

 However, Timothy Njagi, a research fellow at the Tegemeo Institute said that while the consumers are paying less for a plate of ugali, maize farmers are extremely broke.

 He said despite the cost of producing a 90kg bag of maize dropping from Sh2,083 last year to Sh1,781 this year, farmers re still making losses of up to Sh531 per bag as the same bag of maize is retailing at Sh1,250. 

He was speaking yesterday in Nairobi during the release of a report on the cost of production for maize, irish potatoes and rice in Kenya by the Tegemeo Institute.

 “The country has enough maize stock to sustain the country until July 2019 but farmers are extremely broke and not making money. This is a bad year for the maize farmer in Kenya but a good one for the consumer,” he said.

Njagi attributed this to delayed payments by the National Cereals and Produce Board to farmers who sold maize to the government last year, and low market prices.

 The delay has angered some farmers from the North Rift and they are now turning their maize produce into animal feeds. Some farmers have also reduced their acreage under maize production with one farmer from Uasin Gishu only having 79 acres under maize this year compared to 210 acres in 2014/2015 crop year.

 “The increasing production has triggered maize prices to a downward trend thus leading to huge losses to the farmers. Over and above local production, there is also a lot of maize import coming from Uganda and Tanzania,” said Njagi.

 Lilian Kirimi a senior research fellow at the institute said that the country is set to have a bumper harvest of 46 million bags which will last until July 2019.

 She said the current maize stock is at 20.1 million bags with farmers holding 15.8 million bags, millers and traders have 383, 612 bags while NCPB has 3.8 million bags. Bean stock is at 4.9 million while wheat is at 4.7 million bags.

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