Maize farmers and importers will have to fight for lucrative government prices after the government said it will limit purchases for the Strategic Grain Reserves at a million bags only with the price set to be announced in a week’s time.
Agriculture CS Mithika Linturi said the government the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) plans to buy 1 million bags of produce from farmers. He added the government is in dialogue with key stakeholders to set the new maize price by next week.
Barley months since the country faced a huge shortage that forced authorities to import nearly a million tonnes of maize, Kenya is facing a glut on farmers bumper harvest.
Kenya planed to import about 900,000 tonnes of white maize and by the end of June, the ministry reported importation of 259,470 tonnes of maize.
A Central Bank of Kenya survey shows a bumper harvest in maize production is in the offing, projected to reach 44.6 million bags, the highest since 2018.
Maize farmers have 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.
They want taxpayers to meet the cost of production after an expected maize glut is about to plunge prices in the market following a bounty harvest.
Maize farmers say prices have plummeted nearly 70 percent with Western Region farmers telling President William Ruto they used to sell a kilo of maize for Kes150 to Kes200 not too long ago. However, currently, some of them are only able to sell maize for Kes60 to Kes100.
Farmers’ lobby groups have proposed that the government, through the National Cereals and Produce Board, should set the buying price at Kes6,000 for a 90kg bag.
But with just a million bag set to be bought by government, farmers will have to battle it out with imported maize before prices fall hard.
Farmers are likely to cut down on production if they are unable to meet costs when they sell their produce in the market.