• Duty-free import window will coincide with harvest in South Rift, farmers will lose money.
• They also oppose introduction of VAT on fuel and pesticides.
Farmers have opposed the announced duty-free maize importation window in July, saying they will lose money.
The farmers said on Wednesday that the maize importation window will coincide with the start of the harvest season in the South Rift.
This region accounts for three-four million bags annually.
“What will happen to locally produced maize if we go ahead with duty-free imports when the South Rift is harvesting, as well as regional sources like Uganda? Is this the best timing for imports?" asked Stephanus Kruger, national chairman of the Cereal Growers Association.
The government will be releasing 2.6 million bags of maize to millers for of Sh2, 300 a bag to stabilise the cost of a 2kg packet of maize flour.
Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri said this amount will last the country until June after which he will allow registered millers to import duty-free maize to cushion consumers against high food prices.
The farmers also complained about the introduction of VAT on fuel and pesticides.
Kruger said this has made an already difficult farming situation worse.
“With this move, 95 per cent of all farming expenses — inputs, transport and handling services — have VAT on them, the only exception being seed, fertiliser and wages," he said.
"This has pushed the already-high cost of production higher by 12 to 15 per cent. This is a bad policy and should be immediately reversed," he said.
Kruger also said a proper assessment should be carried out to determine if the declared maize shortage is real. “To the best of our knowledge, majority of the farmers are still in possession of maize from their previous harvest,” he said.
Kruger was addressing a press briefing peaking on Wednesday in Nairobi on the maize situation.
The farmers also urged the government to invest in incentivising them and funding an effective extension service resulting in the production of enough food to feed the country.
(Edited by V. Graham)