The National Cereals and Produce Board has bought 410,000 bags of maize valued at Sh1.2 billion in the North Rift region in an intensified price rivalry with private millers amid an anticipated shortage caused by declined yields this season.
While the board targets to buy up to two million bags at Sh3,000 per 90kg bag, some private millers and middlemen have raised their price from Sh2,600 to Sh3,100 to bolster their stock, to the relief of farmers, who have for the past two years suffered low prices.
“We anticipated the maize deliveries to our buying centres to increase due to attractive prices offered and availability of funds to pay the farmers,” said Mr Newton Terer, the board’s managing director.
Maize deliveries to NCPB have been boosted by the rush by farmers to sell the produce to meet demand for the festive season and preparations for the next planting season.
“The buying is going on smoothly and we do not expect long queues towards the end of the year,” said Mr Terer during an eye care programme sponsored by the NCPB and Lion Sight First at the board’s Eldoret depot.
Deputy President William Ruto has said the government will use Sh6 billion to buy this season’s crop.
“The NCPB acts as a market stabiliser by setting prices above those offered by the millers and other traders, to our advantage,” said Mr David Songok from Ziwa, Uasin Gishu County.
Maize was selling for as low as Sh1,600 three months ago after cheap produce, especially from Uganda, flooded the region, sparking protests by farmers. The grain is imported under the East African Community’s Common Market Protocol.
“The cost of maize production in Uganda is less since no fertiliser is applied, as compared to our case, where we have to apply the nutrients to realise better yield,” said Mr Wilson Koech from Moiben, Uasin Gishu.
Maize deliveries to NCPB depots in the North Rift have since increased.
The Ministry of Agriculture has introduced stringent measures to ensure only genuine farmers benefit. It has developed a farmers’ register, available at all county agricultural offices, where farmers can check and verify their registration.
Maize production in the North Rift region declined by 20 per cent from 21 million to 16 million bags last season due to erratic low rainfall.