Maize farmers will now be required to buy their own gunny bags for grain they deliver to the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB), following a shortage of storage sacks at the agency and expected delays in procuring them.
NCPB has been instructed to provide the specifications of the required bags, said Noah Wekesa, the chairman of the Strategic Food Reserve. The grain agency will reimburse farmers for the cost of the bags when they deliver the maize.
NCPB has been hit by a shortage of bags for the past one and a half months, a situation that has slowed the purchase of grain. “Procurement of these bags would take long, probably two to three months,” said Dr Wekesa.
“We have issued instructions to NCPB to advise farmers to buy their own bags, which will be refunded once they deliver”.
“This is a quick way of solving the problem and ensuring that the process is not delayed by lack of bags,” he added.
NCPB Managing Director Albin Sang said the shortage has nearly paralysed purchasing with all depots affected. “Because of the shortage of bags in nearly all the depots, we cannot buy maize. Instead of farmers waiting in the queues, we have given them numbers so that they can wait from home,” said Mr Sang.
NCPB had purchased a paltry 320,000 50kg bags as of Tuesday against the required two million bags, almost two months since the exercise began.
The board has capped the purchase of maize at 400 bags per farmer as the government moves to tame traders and large-scale holders, who have been accused of abusing the window at the expense of small-scale growers.
But the board said Thursday it will reallocate the maize-buying quotas of counties that fail to take up their share in full.
Mr Sang said the Ministry of Agriculture has consulted county bosses from the maize-rich zones of Trans Nzoa and Uasin Gishu over the matter.
Since the purchasing of maize started in the last week of January, some counties, such as Migori, are yet to sell a single bag of maize to the board while others have sold only a small share of their allocated quota.
The ministry had requested Sh400 million from the Treasury last month for gunny bags. Dr Wekesa last month said the money had been approved and would be used to buy 2.5 million bags.