• Maize shortage expected in three to four months. SGR will buy.
• Farmers harvested fewer than 34 million bags of maize last year, down from the usual 43 million bags annually.
More than four million bags of maize are required to fill depleted stocks of the Strategic Grains Reserve at the NCPB.
Chairman of the SGR Dr Noah Wekesa says the board is still planning and will source for the maize from farmers or any other markets.
Farmers have warned, however, that maize stocks are getting depleted and prices of maize will increase as shortages occur in the next four months.
“We do not have adequate stocks for our strategic reserves and we may require to source more than four million bags soon," Wekesa said. The maize stored under the SGR at the NCPB was sold to millers.
Many traders have flocked to the North Rift to buy maize directly from farmers and store it in anticipation of the shortages expected soon.
The traders are offering farmers an average of Sh2,900 per 90kg bag but the prices will increase in the next few weeks as the stocks are exhausted.
Most traders have hired godowns in Eldoret town to store the maize.
A few large-scale farmers are using silos on their farms to store their maize so they can sell it when prices increase.
“We are fairly happy with the market prices, which are likely to further increase in the next few weeks,” farmers Joseph Kibet said. He said farmers were selling the maize to traders as they are the only market available.
The NCPB is not likely to purchase any maize from the farmers on behalf of the Strategic Grain Reserves board.
NCPB depots, which are usually a beehive of activities, are now idle and most staff keep away due to lack of work.
The farmers cite reduced production last year and heavy purchase by traders including exporters for the anticipated shortage.
Reports indicating some traders were also buying maize in bulk and exporting it to several African counties facing shortages. It is estimated that traders have so far bought more than eight million bags of maize directly from farmers.
“We urge the board to ensure only the required quantities will be imported and the flood gates won't be opened so we end up again with excess maize in the markets to hurt local producers," farmer Thomas Korgoren.
Kenya Farmers Association director Kipkorir Menjo says farmers are happy at the moment because of the better prices in the open markets due to the ongoing heavy purchase by traders and the fact that last year’s production dropped by about 10 million bags.
Farmers harvested fewer than 34 million bags of maize last year, down from the usual 43 million bags annually.
NCPB has about 1.2 million bags in the Strategic Grain Reserves but is required to have about five million bags at any time. The board has partially allowed farmers to use its drying and storage facilities at a price.
Moiben MP Sila Tiren says the SRR board should remain firm on regulating maize imports so that the agriculture sector remains stable with farmers making better earnings.
(Edited by V. Graham)