Millers have asked the government for a one-year extension to continue keeping their maize in NCPB stores in Eldoret.
Last month, the government ordered the millers to remove their grain, saying it needs the stores to keep new maize to be bought from farmers.
Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri ordered NCPB to reclaim the stores.
“The National Cereals and Produce Board stores are full and private individuals or companies using them should vacate,” Kiunjuri said.
The one-month notice given to the millers expired yesterday.
Operations manager Cornel Ngelechei said the NCPB needed the space as it prepares to start buying maize.
“We were ordered to vacate but we are requesting an extension because millers buy maize from farmers and keep it in the stores before transporting to the mills,” millers’ spokesman Swalleh Albety said.
Representatives of the millers met in Eldoret yesterday. The meeting was attended by called by Fakii Vae from Mombasa-based Kitui Flour Millers. Vae said millers have been leasing the stores since 1992. He said they have been paying NCPB for the space.
Farmers led by David Kiplagat asked the government to allow the 15 millers to continue renting the stores, at least for a year.
The NCPB is yet to open its depots for buying new maize from farmers. The government plans to buy two million bags. However, no funds have been released to the NCPB.
Farmers are demanding that maize prices be increased from the Sh2,300 per 90kg bag announced last month to Sh3,200.
“Farmers are in a big crisis at the moment because schools have reopened but they don’t have money to pay fees,” Kenya Farmers Association director Kipkorir Menjo said.
He said many had opted to sell their produce at throw away prices to middlemen. The middlemen have swarmed the North Rift to buy maize cheaply from desperate farmers.
The traders are offering farmers between Sh800 and Sh1,200 per 90kg bag in Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu and parts of Bungoma and Kakamega counties.
“We’re caught up in a hard situation and will have to incur heavy loses as a result,” farmer Zachariah Kiptoo said.
13 MILLION BAGS
Millers are offering Sh1,600 per 90kg bag. “We have enough maize for both the millers and the government. We want the millers to offer better prices because they are still too far below what NCPB has been paying,” Joseph Amdanyi said.
Leader of the millers group Patrick Kiburen asked for the release of stocks in NCPB stores to stabilise Unga prices. North Rift farmers are holding more than 13 million bags of maize that was harvested last year.
The government estimates that more than 40 million bags were harvested last year.
Imports have already flooded markets in most regions. The imports have been blamed for the low prices.
NCPB has more than three million bags in its stores.
Ngelechei said they have moved maize from stores in high producing areas in order to take in more stock.