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Economy

Ministry rules out ban on maize import to protect local farmers

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett. PHOTO/SALATON NJAU
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett. PHOTO/SALATON NJAU 

The Agriculture ministry has ruled out maize import ban even as North Rift farmers accuse influential businessmen of flooding the region with cheap cereals from Uganda and selling some to the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB).

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett said Kenya will not curtail inflow of maize from Uganda as the two countries belong to the East Africa Community’s Customs Union.

“As members of a trading bloc, we are not supposed to block maize from the region because we have signed protocol. We challenge our farmers to be more competitive in crops production to remain relevant in the market,” Mr Bett said last Friday during the official opening of agribusiness trade fair at the University of Eldoret.

“But we really find that the crops from Uganda are more competitive than ours and this really gives our farmers challenge to be more competitive in production,” Mr Bett said adding a team has been setup to carry out survey on maize pricing which will be profitable to farmers.

The NCPB has since opened its stores to buy maize at Sh2,300 per 90 kg bag while middlemen are buying are Sh1,800.

Farmers in the North Rift have complained that influential personalities associated with senior government officials import cheap maize ahead of harvesting of the produce in key growing areas.

Most of the maize enters the country from Uganda through Suam border in Trans-Nzoia County and from Tanzania through the Namanga border ahead of the opening of NCPB buying stores to receive local produce.

The imported maize, it is believed, eventually ends up in NCPB stores, a claim the government has denied.

Mr Bett urged farmers to harvest their maize and take it to the NCPB depots to avoid being duped into selling to unscrupulous middlemen, some of whom have hired storage silos in the grain basket of North Rift.

“We have to take care of the consumer if the price of maize goes up we are going to hurt someone. We have already set up a team which is carrying out market price survey,” added Mr Bett.

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