Farmers in the North Rift are undergoing hard times, with many of them yet to prepare their farms for planting this season following delay in payment of their dues by the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB).
Their woes have been compounded after subsidised fertiliser, which had been delivered to NCPB stores in the region ran out.
“We are very worried following the onset of the rains. We fear we may not be able to prepare our farms and purchase inputs on time due to lack of funds that will be a big blow to the country’s food security,” said Felix Kiprono, a farmer from Moiben in Uasin Gishu County.
A spot check by the Sunday Nation in many NPCB depots in the grain basket found many farmers stranded unable to get the inputs.
“We’ve been told that the only available fertiliser is for top dress which we don’t need at the moment as we want planting fertiliser. We are literally stuck despite the onset of rains which is conducive for planting,” said Stephen Gathuo, chairman of Leng’use Farmers’ Cooperative Society.
He said their cooperative requires more than 6,000 bags of the subsidised fertiliser but they have only managed to get 500 bags.
The state of affairs has put farmers at loggerheads with the Jubilee administration with them demanding the removal of Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri for failure to address their plight.
The aggrieved farmers have faulted the government for allowing the importation of maize from Uganda, delayed payment of money for their maize deliveries to the NCPB as well as failure to deliver fertiliser on time.
Jesses Mais, a farmer, said that it was unfortunate that the country had allowed importation of maize from Uganda yet Kenyan farmers can produce enough food.
“The CS two weeks ago came and promised that we will get the fertiliser and also be paid our money but this is yet to happen,” said the former Eldoret South legislator.
He said though the government pledged more on food security, the issue of importation of grains was not part of being self-sufficient as a country.
“President Uhuru Kenyatta said that food security is top priority and that our Strategic Grain Reserve should be replenished. But we feel that CS Kiunjuri has let us down and we ask parliament to start process of impeaching the CS,” said Mr Mais.
Betrice Mutai, a farmer said that should the agriculture CS feel unable to run the docket, he should resign.
“I want to know from the CS what he is doing about payment of our maize but we have camped here for past one week and we are yet to be paid or get fertiliser. And if you are not able to address on our issues, please resign and let someone else hold that docket,” said Mrs Mutai.
Kimutai Kolum, a large-scale farmer from Soy said that most of the maize from Uganda had flooded the market, hurting the local farmers.
“We have been forced to stay in queue for more than a week since the cereals board cannot buy the grains because of the maize from Uganda. We feel that we been frustrated. The CS promised that Sh1 bllion would be released within a week but that is not the case,” said the farmer.
Mr Kiunjuri on Saturday said that the ministry has already released Sh800 million of the Sh1 billion promised to farmers a fortnight ago.
He said that his ministry was working at ensuring that every farmer gets their pay for the maize delivered to the NCPB.
“We promised the farmers that we would pay them and we are working on it. We (ministry) have released Sh800 million and we are waiting for the supplementary budget so that we can offset the payments,” Mr Kiunjuri told the Nation on phone.
He noted that they had received and would continue receiving the maize from verified farmers.
Mr Kiunjuri said that the government has released over half a million bags of fertiliser to different regions in the country.