The National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) has purchased 1.6 million bags of maize estimated at Sh5.12 billion to replenish the country’s Strategic Grain Reserve as more farmers rush to deliver the produce ahead of next planting season.
The deliveries have been boosted by prompt payments of Sh3,200 per 90kg bag of maize up from Sh3,000 last year and waiving of drying facilities to meet the required 13.5 per cent moisture content.
The board has so far paid out Sh2.6 billion as more farmers deliver the produce due to the attractive prices as compared to Sh2,400 per 90kg bag offered by middlemen.
“We shall be making payments for the maize deliveries as we receive funds from the government but the process is so far encouraging,” said Mr Titus Maiyo, the NCPB corporate affairs manager.
Mr Maiyo said stringent measures have been put in place to weed out unscrupulous farmers who were out to delay delivery to NCPB stores and profit from the Sh3,200 offered by the government.
“Policy inspectors have been deployed to our buying centres to ensure that the imported subsidized maize or crop from neighbouring countries do not end up in our stores,” he added.
Meanwhile, leaders from the North Rift region have petitioned the government to hasten the release of funds to NCPB to facilitate prompt payment for maize deliveries.
Led by Moiben MP Silas Tiren, who is also the National Assembly Agriculture Committee chairman, the leaders decried the slow process of paying farmers for their maize dues.
“The last time we had a meeting with Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett, it was agreed that a farmer is paid within 24 hours of delivery which has not been honoured,” claimed Mr Tiren.
Soy MP Caleb Kositany echoed the same sentiments saying that farmers should be paid as they depend on the produce to meet their basic needs and invest in the next crop.
However, the NCPB management said measures have been put in place to accept the crop in its buying centres and silos countrywide.
“We are encouraging farmers in the maize growing areas of the North Rift region to consider delivering the crop to NCPB depots in Bungoma, Kisumu and Nakuru to ease congestion,” appealed Mr Maiyo.
But cereal farmers in the North Rift are piling pressure on the government to regulate importation of low priced maize from the East African Community (EAC) member states ahead of harvesting of this season’s crop.
The farmers have accused the government of failing to address challenges facing the agriculture sector which has resulted in the declining maize prices due to entry of extra produce from Uganda.
“As much as we respect the EAC common market protocol, the government needs to cushion us from unfair competition by regulating importation of cheap maize by subsidizing the cost of production as much as possible,” said Mr Joshua Kolong’gey from Suam, Trans-Nzoia County.
The growers claimed most maize from Uganda enters Kenya through the porous Suam border point.