Maize farmers in the North Rift have lost millions of shillings to fraudsters who have flocked the region to buy produce on credit at attractive prices, ostensibly on behalf of the Word Food Programme (WFP) and other humanitarian agencies, but close shop before making payments.
Security teams in the region have arrested a prime suspect behind the multimillion-shilling maize scam following protests by farmers in Uasin Gishu County who have lost close to a million bags of the crop to the tricksters.
The suspect, Kairo Nyinya Sammy, was arrested after defrauding farmers in Ziwa, Eldoret West sub-county of 700 bags of maize offering Sh3,000 per 90 kilogrammes as compared to Sh1,6000 offered by most private millers.
The police recovered suspected fake UN diplomatic identification card among other documents they used to con the maize farmers of their produce.
“The fraudsters are taking advantage of desperate farmers by buying the crop on credit at attractive rates of Sh3,000 per bag for United Nation, promising to pay them in a week’s time,” said Zacharia Bitok, Eldoret West police boss.
He said three other suspects have been arrested in connection with the scam where maize farmers are believed to have lost millions of shillings.
“The tricksters operate in various parts of the North Rift region where they have opened buying centres and are believed to have close links with dishonest UN staff,” added Mr Bitok.
He disclosed that one of the farmers in Moiben division lost 200 bags and another 100 to the con traders.
The Kenya Farmers Association (KFA) cautioned farmers to be wary of the con traders and urged them to sell their produce to the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) and genuine traders in the region.
“Farmers stand to incur heavy losses unless they stock their produce and sell them to NCPB, private millers and genuine traders,” said Kipkorir Menjo, the KFA director.
The NCPB is offering Sh2,500 per 90-kilogramme bag following last week directive by President Uhuru Kenyatta to start buying the crop. Private millers are buying the produce at Sh1,800 per 90 kilograms bag.
Three trickster traders were last year arrested by police after swindling a farmer of over Sh100,000 for maize deliveries.
The fraudulent traders close shop after receiving maize, before making payments and relocate to a different area where they change their business logo and proceed to con other disillusioned farmers.
Interviewed farmers said delays by NCPB was forcing them to sell their maize produce to middlemen at throwaway prices.
“Financial challenges to buy farm inputs and meet basic needs are driving some farmers to end up selling their produce to such fraudsters,” said David Songok from Chepkumia Nandi County.
The NCPB management Wednesday confirmed that they have not received approval from the government to start buying maize giving middlemen an upper hand to exploit farmers by offering low prices as they prepare for next planting season.
“We are still waiting directive from the government on when to start buying maize from farmers and at what price,” disclosed Titus Maiyo, the NCPB Corporate affairs manager.
The board, he said has been holding series of sensitization seminars for its staff across the country in preparation to buy maize from farmers.