The government has announced that it will buy maize currently being harvested at Sh2,300 per 90kg bag, potentially setting the stage for conflict with farmers already suffering losses from the last season.
The announcement was made Monday afternoon by the Strategic Food Reserve Fund (SFRF), which intends to buy 2.5 million bags from the 2018/19 harvest.
SRFR chairman Noah Wekesa said they will start buying the maize once the National Treasury avails funds.
“The purchase of the stock will start through our contracted agent, the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB), as soon as funds are availed by the National Treasury,” Dr Wekesa said during a press briefing at the Devolution ministry boardroom at Teleposta Towers, Nairobi.
Asked why the board lowered the price it offered last year, he said the country is not short of maize due to last year’s bumper harvest.
He also cited dynamics brought about by large imports during the duty free window ordered by the government mid last year.
“We are also trying to balance the interests of farmers against those of consumers. Raising the price to Sh3,200 as was the case last year would mean that the retail price would go up," he said.
Dr Wekesa noted that the government has released Sh2.13 billion to pay farmers owed for produce delivered in 2017.
Of all those who delivered maize to the NCPB in 2017/18, at least 226 have not been fully paid.
In addition, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission has had issues with 62 farmers, who have to be cleared before they are paid.
“The balance of 164 farmers, who have no issues, will be paid within the next two weeks,” he said, flanked by members of the fund.
They are Mr Gerald Masila, Mr Charles Owino, Ms Susan Mukiri and Acting Fund Manager Omar Salatt.
The Ministry of Agriculture last week declared that at least 1.8 million of the current stock in the Strategic Food Reserve is unfit for both human and animal consumption.
The fund, which owns the stock, refused to be dragged into the issue.
The board further said it learnt of reports about the state of the maize through the media.
It however regretted that both the ministry and the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs), which conducted investigations, have not furnished the board with the report of their findings.
Dr Wekesa said the board will engage Kebs and independent players in quality assessment, to determine the true status of the maize.
A decision will then be made on how to dispose of the maize.