Kenya will not stop maize imports from Uganda as the two countries have signed East African trade protocol, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett has said.
According to Mr Bett business between Kenya and Uganda will move seamlessly so long as the goods meet required standard.
“We are not supposed to stop maize from coming in we are a bloc, we are East African Community and we have signed protocol. We challenge our farmers to be more competitive in crops production in order to remain relevant in the market,” said Mr Bett.
He added: “But we really find that the crops from Uganda are more competitive than ours and this should challenge our farmers to be more competitive.”
Mr Bett who was speaking on Friday during the official opening of agri-business trade fair at the University of Eldoret disclosed that a team has been setup to carryout survey on maize pricing which will be profitable to farmers.
National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) has since opened its stores with the government agency offering Sh2,300 per bag while middlemen are buying at Sh1,800 dealing a blow to maize farmers in the North Rift region.
Mr Bett urged the farmers to harvest their maize and take them to the NCPB depots and avoid being duped to sell their produce to unscrupulous middlemen some of whom have hired storage silos in the grain basket of North Rift.
Lack of market
“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 the CS.
Maize farmers in the North Rift region have been experiencing perennial difficulties in selling the crop due to lack of market with NCPB being the main buyer of the produce.
“We have no option but sell the produce to middlemen at throw away prices to avoid losses due to attack of the crop by pests,” said Mary Korir, a farmer from Togoin village in Nandi County.
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 entered into the country from Uganda through Suam border in Trans-Nzoia County and from Tanzania through Namanga border ahead of the opening of NCPB buying stores to receive local produce.
The imported maize is believed to have ended up in NCPB stores, a claim the government has denied.
Implementation of East African Community (EAC) common market protocol allows free trade in commodities including cereals.
It also emerged that it is cheaper to cultivate maize in Uganda due to high soil fertility hence no application of fertilizer unlike in Kenya where farmers have to invest heavily in the nutrients to realize better yield.
Maize production in Rift Valley declined from 21 million bags to 16 million in 2014/2015 season due to attack by Maize Lethal Necrosis (MLN) disease and erratic climatic condition.