Maize farmers in Embu and Kirinyaga counties want the government to buy their produce due to the low prices being offered by middlemen.
Prices have dipped to as low as Sh15 per kilo, down from Sh40 that was being offered two months ago due to a glut arising from a bumper harvest.
The farmers want the government to buy the produce through the National Cereals and Produce Board, the same way it does in the Rift Valley.
Mwariama Council of Elders chairman Njagi Kumantha said farmers in the semi-arid region of Mbeere, who had recorded low harvests in previous years due to erratic rainfall, would be the worst hit by the low grain prices.
He called on the Council of Governors to engage the Agriculture ministry so that counties can have a role in the running of the cereals board.
Dr Kumantha said that owing to heavy rainfall from March to June, maize, beans, greengrams and cowpeas thrived leading to ample harvests.
“We have a cereals depot in Majimbo and another one in Ishiara, which are stocked with maize from Rift Valley region. We want the Embu government to liaise with the national government and buy maize from the local farmers at a minimum price of Sh60 per 2kg tin,” said Dr Kumantha.
Sh30 per 2kg tin
In many parts of Embu, a 2kg tin of maize is selling at Sh30 up from at least Sh60; the same quantity of green grams at Sh100 up from Sh250 and cowpeas at Sh50 up from the usual Sh200.
According to Ms Rose Mutugi, a farmer from Kerugoya in Kirinyaga county, a 2kg tin of maize is going for as low as Sh20 or Sh25.
She said majority of farmers were being forced to sell at that price so as to raise money for school fees and other needs.
“Finding a buyer is a challenge but those turning up are offering so low prices that it cannot even meet the cost of production. Many farmers are financially strained and cannot store their maize and wait for the prices to improve,” said Ms Mutugi.
She complained that the cost of harvesting her crop, transporting it and threshing would surpass her gross sales.
During a public forum on Embu’s 2018/2019 budgetary estimates, residents urged the county government to form a regional cereals and produce Board to boost green grams’ farmers to earn more from the crop.