The National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) has bought 7,519 bags of maize worth Sh19 million in Uasin Gishu County even as farmers in the region decry what they see as stringent vetting rules.
The NCPB management on Tuesday acknowledged that vetting was slowing down delivery of maize to its depots countrywide.
Farmers are required to produce national identification card (ID), personal identification number (PIN), land title deed or lease agreement to get admission. Other conditions include moisture content of 13.5 degree Celsius, low broken percentage of the grains, aflatoxin and damages by weevils.
“It is unfortunate that we have so far purchased maize in our Eldoret depot only since farmers have not been cleared by the vetting committee,” said Titus Maiyo, the board's corporate affairs manager.
He disclosed that the cereals board had received 23 forms from vetted farmers in Moi’s Bridge depot while one farmer was cleared at the Lugari depot.
“Most farmers in maize growing zones including Trans-Nzoia County and the entire South Rift region have not been cleared to enable them deliver the produce to our stores,” added Mr Maiyo.
The government plans to buy two million bags of maize worth Sh5 billion at the rate of Sh2,500 per 90-kilogramme bag, down from Sh3,200 it offered last year.
“It is pointless to subject farmers to rigorous vetting process only to be allowed to deliver one or two bags of maize” said Kipkorir Menjo, the Kenya Farmers Association (KFA) director.
He petitioned the government to relax some of the conditions to cushion farmers from incurring more challenges in selling the produce.
“It is mandatory that the farmers are cleared by the vetting committee before they can deliver their produce to our stores,” explained Albin Sang, the NCPB acting managing director.
The Strategic Food Reserve Trust Fund (SFRTF), headed by Noah Wekesa, has capped the purchases of the produce at 400 bags worth Sh1 million with each village allocated less than 100 bags to enable many small-scale farmers to benefit from the scheme.
The board has reduced the quantity of maize that farmers in Uasin Gishu County can sell to the board from 716,802 to 328,610 bags, sparking protest among the grain growers.
It has consequently allowed Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC) and Galana Kulalu, both State agencies to deliver 170,000 bags to the NCPB at the expense of farmers.
Maize farmers who are out to supply more than 400 bags must get clearance from the SFRTF board in Nairobi.
“Any farmer who wants to supply more than 400 bags of maize to the NCPB must seek clearance from the SFRTF board,” maintained Abdi Hassan, the Uasin Gishu County Commissioner.
Some of the farmers who had lined up at the NCPB silos ready to deliver the produce left after the management insisted on only accepting maize from vetted growers.
The miseries of the farmers have been complicated further by unwillingness of private millers to buy the maize owing to sufficient stocks to sustain their operations.
“Most millers are faced with market challenges for their products that has resulted in scaling down of operations to cut down on costs,” said Kipngetich Mutai of Innet millers.
Maize prices in Uasin Gishu have plummeted from Sh2,000 to Sh1,600 in the past two weeks due to delays by NCPB to purchase the produce owing to the vetting despite order by President Uhuru Kenyatta that the agency start buyuing immediately.
According to Uasin Gishu County CEC in charge of Agriculture, Samuel Yego, about 4.5 million bags of maize were harvested last season, out of which more than 2.5 million bags will be released to the market.
“Some of the farmers will be unable to sell their produce to the NCPB unless the allocation is doubled from two to four million bags,” said Mr Yego.
Trans-Nzoia County realised an estimated 5.3 million bags of maize while it will supply 329,610 bags which the farmers have termed as too low.