Maize farmers in the North Rift after have rejected the prices offered by the government for their produce, as announced by Agriculture secretary Willy Bett on Thursday.
The farmers said the Sh3,200 offered for each 90kg of maize, above the Sh3,000 offered last season, was not enough to cater for the cost of production and still earn profit.
They said they had used lots of money to fight armyworms that attacked their maize farms early this year.
“The government should have considered buying maize at competitive rates to cushion us from increased production costs including combating infestation of fall armyworms which we had not budgeted in our farming,” said Kiplimo Arap Ruto from Kiplombe, Uasin-Gishu County.
The farmers argued that the invasion of the armyworms led to increased cost of production and low yields this season, subjecting them to heavy losses.
“The infestation of the pest in maize plantations dealt a blow to maize farmers in the region signaling tough economic time and the government should have considered offering them better producer prices,” Trans-Nzoia branch chairman of the Kenya National Farmers Federation (Kenaff) Mr William Kimosong.
He said a broad spectrum of pesticides recommended by the Ministry of agriculture was very expensive, with the cheapest costing Sh20,000 a litre. And that is enough for only one acre.
Sh4,200 a bag
The farmers want the prices increased to Sh 4,200 to enable them generate better income and increase acreage under cultivation next season.
“This spells doom for us when coupled with the high cost of farm inputs, the drought in some parts of the region and the unstable maize market,” Mr Andrew Rotich, a farmer from Cherangany, Trans-Nzoia County.
On Thursday, Mr Bett defended the Sh3,200 price, basing it on evaluation by the Ministry of Agriculture and Tegemeo Institute, which estimated production of 90kg of maize at Sh2,250 per bag.
He said the increase of maize prices delivered to the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) from Sh 3,000 to Sh 3,200 was meant to cushion farmers from the cost of pesticides for fall army worms, the impact of erratic rainfall and stabilise the market prices.
The Ministry of Agriculture forecasts this season maize harvest to be 20 per cent less than the projected 40 million 90-kg bags
According to Mr Bett, the yield is projected at 32 million 90-kg bags, down from 37.1 million bags, setting stage for acute shortage of the commodity in most households.
The government allocated Sh1.97 billion for Strategic Food Reserves in last financial budget as compared to Sh2.7 billion it set aside to buy the produce in the 205/2016 budget.