Maize farmers protest outside the National Cereals and Produce Board offices 22 August 2018 over delayed payment. PHOTO|NRM
Maize farmers in the country will be forced to dig deeper into their pockets to buy fertiliser ahead of the long rains planting season.
This is after the chairman of Strategic Food Reserve Noah Wekesa said the government has no plans to subsidise the farm input.
Speaking to journalists at the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) Eldoret depot, Wekesa told farmers not to wait on the government for subsidised fertiliser this year.
“Farmers from maize-growing regions across the country should prepare to buy farm input on their own,” he said.
Farmers now fear that the prices of fertiliser in the open market will be costly now that the NCPB will not supply them.
“NCPB usually helps to maintain lower prices lower through the supply of the subsidised fertilizer and now that there will be no importation, the prices are likely to skyrocket during the planting season,” the director of the Kenya Farmers Association Kipkorir Menjo said.
The government was to import about 200,000 metric tonnes of subsidised fertilizer especially the Diammonium phosphate (DAP) which is used in planting by farmers.
The planting season in the high producing areas of the North Rift starts in most areas at the end of February.
At NCPB farmers were to buy the subsidised DAP fertilizer at about Sh1,200 per 50kg bag but farmers fear that the price may go as high as sh 3,000 for the same quantity.
Menjo warned there may also be shortages of the commodity that may adversely affect food production this year.
Some of the farmers have asked President Uhuru Kenyatta to personally intervene and ensure they get the fertiliser as it would unaffordable for them in the open markets.
At the same time, county commissioners have been tasked with vetting maize growers in the grain-rich Rift Valley as President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Executive Order which has given more powers to the provincial administration begins to take effect.
In a meeting chaired by Rift Valley Regional Coordinator Mwongo Chimwanga, county commissioners from Uasin Gishu, Trans Nzoia, Nakuru, Nandi, West Pokot, Elgeyo Marakwet and Laikipia counties have been directed to spearhead the process.
Chimwanga said technical committees have been formed in the sub-county level to look into the maize issue and ensure that only genuine farmers are paid upon delivery of their produce to NCPB.
This is part of the stringent rules that the government has introduced to weed out cartels in the troubled maize sector.
“We want to know the exact acreage of particular farmers and their identities so that we do not have ghost farmers and cartels,” he said.
Strategic Food Reserve Trust Fund (SFRF) CEO Hassan Omar said the government has already released Sh5 billion for the purchase of 2 million bags of maize from farmers. “We want to finish off the cartels and protect genuine farmers,” he said.