Maize farmers can now breathe a sigh of relief after the Kenyan government released Sh1.4b out of Sh3.5bn as payment for 4.3m bags of maize delivered to the National Cereals and Produce Board during the 2017 harvest season.
According to the Chief Administrative Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Andrew Tuimur, farmers will be paid Sh3,200 for every 90kg bag up from Sh3,000 last year, an increase of 6.7 per cent.
The funds will be disbursed to farmers through NCPB depots across the country and will benefit farmers who have undergone the vetting process that was initiated by the government in April this year.
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In 2017, the ministry reported that over two million farmers had registered with them in a move that was said to boost service delivery while at the same time ensuring smallholder farmers sell their produce to government institutions to meet the 30 per cent threshold of procurement of food rule on food in Kenya.
The move to register the farmers came at a time when long queues of lorries delivering maize to the National Cereals and Produce Board depots were witnessed in Eldoret, Bungoma and Moi’s Bridge with cheap maize imports from Uganda suspected to be the main cause at the expense of genuine growers.
The delay in paying maize farmers has led to some farmers in the North Rift region, hitherto considered Kenya’s bread basket to reduce the number of acres of maize farming by half.
“Most of the farmers in Uasin Gishu and Nandi have reduced the number of acreage of maize by half due to delay in payments and this may cut maize production this year by 30 per cent,” said Kipkorir Menjo, the Director, Kenya Farmers Association, Eldoret.
In 2017, Kenya’s maize production declined due to drought and fall armyworm invasion which was detected across 27 counties resulting in losses of up to $120m according to the United States department of agriculture.
The country produced 35.2m bags in the 2015/16 season down from 37.1m bags in the 2016/17 planting season.
In this, Uasin Gishu, maize production from 4.4m bags recorded in 2016 to 3.7m bags last year representing a 25 per cent drop occasioned by outbreak of fall armyworm and maize smut disease.
In Trans Nzoia, the production plummeted from five million bags in 2016 to 4.7m bags in 2017.
Uasin Gishu and Trans Nzoia counties combined produce over 40 per cent of Kenya’s total maize production and are thus considered the country’s grain baskets.
According to the ministry of agriculture, Kenya consumes at least three million bags of maize monthly with approximately 70 per cent of the population dependent on agriculture.