The lack of a national strategic food reserve, high fertilizer and fuel costs have been cited as some of the main factors behind the maize crisis raging in the country.
Grain value chain players are seeing that producers, including large-scale and subsistence farmers, have released all their stocks, including surpluses, to the market due to high demand.
Traders now source maize from as far away as Zambia and Malawi, making a two-kilogram box (korogoro) to retail for between 230 and 250 shillings in parts of the North Rift.
They cite the increase in prices to the lengthy procedures for buying products from neighboring states and the long hours of transportation to the local market.
Sources told The Standard that huge stocks of local maize harvested last season have been sold in South Sudan, while production in Uganda has plummeted due to drought last year.
“Most farmers unloaded the surplus maize they had stored for food to enable them to buy fertilizer and seeds and to meet the high cost of fuel to prepare their fields. This has led to excessive handing over of maize to traders resulting in a severe grain shortage,” said Ruth Kemboi.
Ms Kemboi, President of Uasin Gishu Kenya National Farmers Federation (Kenff) branch, said for the first time that maize prices in the North Rift have exceeded 6,500 shillings per 90kg bag due to shortages.
“The lack of strategic reserves in National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) stores across the country to stabilize prices is at the root of the high cost of flour. Food prices could skyrocket further as Uganda and Tanzania restrict exports,” Kemboi said.
The delayed government input subsidy, Kemboi pointed out, has seen farmers fight for survival, selling all their stocks to buy inputs.
“We do not understand why the government has not purchased shares through the NCPB. Unless the government intervenes by setting a good producer price and buying adequate stocks after the current season’s harvest, the situation could be worse next year,” the Kenff official said.
Thomas Boen, a farmer in Uasin Gishu, said the high cost of living and the change in the school calendar have prompted small maize farmers to sell their maize stocks to pay regular school fees and support their families. families.
“We had short school terms and parents who depend on agriculture had to sell their produce to meet their children’s educational obligations. The lack of fertilizer subsidies has also prompted farmers to sell more inventory,” he said.
Boen added: “At the start of planting in March, a 90 kg bag of maize was selling for Shs 3,000 and we had to sell two to buy a 50 kg bag of fertilizer which then cost between Shs 5 800 and 6,300 Sh. We also sold to invest in seeds, mechanical operations and to buy top-dressing fertilizer which costs more than 7,000 shillings per bag.
Mr Jeremiah Kosgei, a maize trader in Eldoret, expressed concern that unless the government increases subsidies on maize, consumers will continue to pay more this month and into August.
“There is still a severe shortage of maize and we are now relying on produce from Zambia, Malawi and Tanzania. Transport logistics is a major issue and it costs us 550,000 shillings to transport a trailer with 300 bags of maize from Zambia to Kenya,” Kosgei said.
He said the extra transport costs translate to 5,500 shillings per 90kg bag, therefore they will have an incentive to sell at over 5,800 shillings to local millers.
Kosgei said the government’s waiver is “just a drop in the bucket”, saying they are only exempted from paying 40,000 shillings for 300 bags, which takes traders three weeks to complete. move from Zambia to Kenya.
“The sale of green maize made the situation worse because by then we would have dry maize from Narok, but the farmers used it up to support their families. Right now we are transporting maize to sell in parts of Marakwet that have started experiencing food shortages,” he said.
Kosgei argued that if the government wanted to stabilize flour prices at around Sh100 per 2kg pack, it should provide a subsidy of Sh2,000 per bag to allow millers to buy a 90kg bag of maize. dry at 3,800 Sh.
“The demand for maize is so high, with Kenyans flocking to Zambia and Malawi for produce. We interact in both countries as if we were at home. We are being sold the 2018 strategic food reserves in both countries,” Kosgei added.
Samuel Yego, director of agriculture in Uasin Gishu county, dismissed fears of food shortages next year, dismissing claims of reduced production area.
“We have 104,000 hectares of maize plantations in Uasin Gishu County, just like last year. There is no reduction in area compared to last year and we expect a good harvest,” he said.
He blamed market dynamics, however, saying shortages would occur if traders looked to neighboring countries, including South Sudan.
Yego also noted a drop in wheat production area from 18,500 hectares three years ago to less than 16,500 currently, saying the high cost of fungicides and imported products are demoralizing producers.