NCPB set to buy maize after farmers’ vetting

Workers at the National Cereals and Produce Board, Eldoret depot offload maize delivered by farmers. PHOTO | FILE
Workers at the National Cereals and Produce Board, Eldoret depot offload maize delivered by farmers. PHOTO | FILE 

The Agriculture ministry has finalised vetting maize farmers, paving the way for the opening of the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) stores to receive grains for strategic reserve.

Agriculture secretary Felix Koskei said the vetting was necessary following reports that middlemen had stashed two million bags of maize ahead of the opening of the stores.

“We have finalised the process of identifying real farmers. This is one of the things that had delayed the buying exercise as we want to ensure that only genuine farmers benefit from government price,” said Mr Koskei.

The national granary is expected to spend Sh2.5 billion to boost its strategic reserve, but officials have so far declined to make their offer price public, further unsettling the market that is grappling with rock bottom producer prices.

The middlemen, hoping that NCPB will maintain its traditional price of Sh3,000 per bag, have been building stocks, buying maize from local farmers and even in neighbouring countries for as low as Sh1,200.

Mr Koskei had met with five governors from the maize-growing regions a fortnight ago where they agreed on modalities, which included identifying farmers from the traders before NCPB opens its stores.

Agriculture principal secretary Sicily Kariuki, who is also the NCPB trustee, said that strategic grain reserve (SGR) maize prices shall be determined at a later date by trustees who include officials from the Devolution ministry and the Treasury.

“Moving forward, a policy shall be put in place for determining seasonal maize prices based on cost of production plus an agreed mark-up,” said Ms Kariuki.

Egerton University-based think-tank Tegemeo Institute in one of its findings last year said it would cost a farmer Sh1,741 to produce a bag of maize in Trans Nzoia and Sh1,400 in Uasin Gishu.

Ms Kariuki noted that the county governments agreed to assist farmers diversify, cutting reliance on maize as the only source of income and livelihood.

This year, the government cut production costs by reducing the price of fertiliser from Sh1,600 to Sh1,500.

Farmers have vowed not to settle for anything less than Sh3,000 that the NCPB has been paying for a 90kg bag of maize in the last four years.