Cross-border trade in cereals following a projected decline in yields is hurting local farmers who fear that the market could soon be flooded.
Middlemen and millers are reportedly taking advantage of the East Africa Common Market Protocol to import low-cost maize mainly from Uganda.
The traders are purchasing the crop for as low as Sh1,800 per 90 kilo bag at the border point and blending it with local produce.
The National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) is offering Sh3,200 per 90 kilo bag, up from Sh3,000 last year, while the crop is going for Sh2,800 at farm gate level.
Data on cross-border trade over the past three weeks indicate that maize imports from Uganda have risen, as grain prices rise due to post-harvest losses occasioned by ongoing rains in the North Rift granary. In the period, Kenya has received close to 3,000 tonnes of maize from Uganda through the border points.
The Regional Agricultural Trade Intelligence Network (Ratin), run by the Eastern African Grain Council which monitors real-time cross-border grain trade, shows that an average 700 tonnes of maize crossed into Kenya from Uganda every day last week.
Ratin says that Busia border recorded 881 tonnes of maize from Uganda by last week — Malaba 4.14 tonnes and Lwakhakha 12 tonnes.
“We want them to prioritise local maize and ensure prompt payment for deliveries. The last payment was in early November,” said Mr Kipkorir Menjo, Kenya Farmers Association director.
The projected shortage of maize in the local market is occasioned by erratic rainfall and an armyworm invasion that destroyed hectares of farmland. The Ministry of Agriculture forecasts this season’s maize harvest to be 20 per cent less than the projected 40 million 90 kg bags.
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett said the yield is projected at 32 million 90 kg bags, down from 37.1 million bags, setting the stage for an acute shortage.
Farmer David Kipchumba said there was a need for more incentives to lower production costs since most farmers are yet to recover from the armyworm invasion, drought and prolonged rains.
“Production costs can be lowered through use of quality seeds that are tolerant to drought and pests such as Maize Necrosis Lethal disease,” said Mr Chumba.
Mr Wilson Koech from Moiben, Uasin Gishu County, said: “The cost of producing maize in Uganda is less than in Kenya since little or no fertiliser is applied.
By Thursday this week, NCPB had bought 650,000 bags of 90kg maize estimated at Sh2.08 billion. The board has put in place stringent measures to weed out unscrupulous farmers who delay maize deliveries to NCPB stores.
“We are experiencing steady delivery of maize as farmers continue harvesting the crop. Policy inspectors have been deployed to buying centres to vet and ensure that imported subsidised maize from neighbouring countries does not end up in our stores,” said Mr Titus Maiyo, the board’s corporate affairs manager. He assured farmers of prompt payment for deliveries.
A spot-check at NCPB stores in the North Rift showed intense activity as farmers delivered their produce in lorries, tractors and carts.
The government has this year allocated Sh7.1 billion to buy 2.4 million bags of maize to replenish the Strategic Grain Reserves.
“As much as we respect the EAC Common Market Protocol, the government should cushion us from unfair competition,” said farmer Joshua Kolong’gey from Suam in Trans-Nzoia County, the main entry point for maize from Uganda.