Bumper harvest poses problem for maize farmers


Trucks queue to deliver maize to the National Cereals and Produce Board, Eldoret depot. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NMG

Kenya is headed for a bumper maize harvest even as farmers in the North Rift region struggle to sell their last season's crop.

Johnstone Irungu, the director of crops in the Agriculture ministry on Tuesday said the yield is projected to rise from 37 million bags to 40.9 million bags this season.

“Maize production is projected to increase this season due to favourable weather conditions during planting, availability of subsidised farm-inputs and disease outbreaks control,” explained Dr Irungu.

The projected yields also follow government campaigns to contain the spread of the fall armyworm that destroyed hectares of the crop in Kitale, Bungoma, Kakamega, Uasin Gishu, Trans Nzoia, Busia, Nandi, Kericho, Baringo and Nakuru counties last season.

In Uasin Gishu, county agriculture officer Samuel Yego said production would increase from 4.2 million bags to about 5 million bags due to consistent rainfall and a shift from wheat production.

The increase in maize yields, however, has compounded problems for farmers seeking market for their produce.

Flood of imports

“Most farmers have in the past moved from wheat to maize production driven by better returns but this is likely to take a new twist due to the flooding of market with cheap imported produce,” said Mr Yego.

He said local maize farmers are holding about 500,000 bags of maize after the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) suspended buying the produce having exhausted its Sh7.1 billion allocation to buy the crop for the strategic food reserve.

The anticipated yields sets the stage for further decline in maize prices, which has been made worse by the influx of cheap imports.

Private millers in the region are purchasing maize from Uganda for as low as Sh1,200 per 90 kilogrammes.

“Cereal farmers as staring at losses due to further drop in producer prices as cheap maize from Ugandan stream the local market,” said Kipng’etich Mutai from Ineet Mills in Eldoret.

Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) data indicates that traders imported about 3.28 million of 90 kilogrammes bag of cheap maize in the past five months destabilising market for the local produce.