Farmers want taxpayers to meet the cost of production as the country is expected to record a maize glut that would plunge prices.
Maize farmers are pushing the government to declare a price above market rates of Kes6,000 per 90 kg bag and will use the biennial devolution conference in Eldoret today to push for the price cap.
The Kenya Kwanza government finds itself awkwardly having to resume subsidies it stopped just one year ago on claims that they were detrimental to the economy.
President Wiliam Ruto’s government has had to bring back a fuel stabilisation subsidy to cushion the economy from high oil prices after rise in cost of living pushed the country towards opposition-led protests.
President Ruto who had promised sound economic policies including subsidising only production, now has to subsidise consumption as well as he faces the realities of economics.
Fertiliser prices were just one component of maize production and that the value added taxes on fuel and electricity prices would push up other costs of production.
Kenya National Farmers Federation (Kenaff) Uasin Gishu County chapter chairperson Ruth Kemboi said despite the government issuing cheap fertiliser, the high cost of fuel pushed up the cost of production to between Kes3500 to Kes4500 per acre.
Meanwhile, the price of a 90kg bag of maize is dropping like a stone, from Kes6,000 in early July to Kes5,000 or less this week and in some areas across the country the prices may come down drastically. This comes as farmers rush to sell their produce on an anticipated glut with officials estimating a bumper harvest on good rains.
Maize farmers have also expressed fears that the entry of cheap maize under the East African Community (EAC) Common Market Protocol ahead of this season’s harvest will destabilise prices and expose them to losses.
Farmers are opposed to allowing market forces of supply and demand to determine maize prices, arguing that the arrival of cheap produce will disadvantage them as they struggle to break even.
The President is now facing direct pressure from his constituency as he returns to his political Eldoret bedrock for the Devolution conference amidst grumblings in the tea sector, overseas education fraud accusations among his close allies and a clamour by farmers to get taxpayers to bear the cost of their production.
President Ruto is banking on the momentum of the 8 percent increase in acreage under maize according to the Directorate of Resource Surveys and Remote Sensing (DRSRS) as the country recovered from the shock of its longest drought in 40 years to push up productivity. He is aware that if farmers cannot sell above cost, it will discourage replanting the crop.
Already Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua admitted in Nandi recently that the government would set a price in favour of the farmers.
“Before the President jetted out last week to Mozambique, he told me to work with the Ministry of Agriculture, National Treasury and National Cereals and Produce Board to mobilise resources and buy maize. Our farmers will be paid within 48 hours upon delivering their produce to lock out middle men,” he said.