The National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) has received a total of 296 million shillings to pay for maize deliveries from farmers.
According to Titus Maiyo, NCPB’s spokesperson, the money will be used to pay maize farmers who delivered maize before March 2. He also noted that another 147 million shillings would be released for farmers who made the delivery by March 9.
So far, NCPB has bought a total of 391,000 bags of maize, which is a long way from achieving the target of 2 million bags.
Meanwhile, as the government is purchasing the produce at a much slower pace, farmers have long grown impatient.
Kipkorir Menjo, the Director of Kenya Farmers Association says that many farmers have chosen to let go of the tough vetting process at the board that comes prior to selling the maize.
According to Menjo, the majority of these farmers have decided to sell their maize to middlemen citing slow payments.
Although the farmers are selling the produce at meager prices to intermediaries who want profits, they have no choice since they urgently want to buy farm inputs for the coming planting season.
“This vetting process is being used to frustrate farmers all the time. The same farmers are being vetted so many times at NCPB”, Menjo noted.
Menjo claims that NCPB paid out 200 million shillings in February but so far, no other payment has been made leaving farmers distressed.
According to the government’s directive, NCPB buys the maize at 2,500 shillings for a 90-kilogram bag, whereas independent traders offer about 2,000 shillings for the same quantity.
Despite Maiyo claiming that the purchase of maize is carrying on well, the industry is rocked with myriad challenges.
The vetting conditions are meant to ensure that only genuine farmers are paid by the board, but there is a chance that the majority of actual producers of the commodity will still be left out.
“The vetting conditions were not introduced by the board at all”, said Maiyo in defense.
He says that the government set the conditions following corruption scandals in the maize industry last year.
In March, President Uhuru Kenyatta directed the cereals body to start the purchase of 2,000,000 bags of maize from farmers at the price of 2,500 shillings. The initial price set by the cabinet was at 2,300 shillings.
With what the NCPB has managed to buy, more than 1.6 million bags are yet to be bought. Some farmers have been complaining of delays with most of them being turned away for lack of sacks.
NCPB on March 21 announced that there was a shortage of bags to store maize purchased from farmers and they will have to buy their own bags.
Initially, NCPB would provide the sacks but according to the agency, there are no sacks and those willing to deliver their produce will have to come with their own bags.
In a move that was aimed at locking out cartels and traders, the board capped the purchase of 400 bags of maize per farmer, a move that led to protests among large-scale maize farmers.
During the last harvesting season, Kenyan farmers are estimated to have harvested at least 16,000,000 million bags of maize. With the government set to purchase only 2,000,000 bags, farmers will be left with more than 10,000,000 bags with nowhere to take.
Delayed payments and the scarcity, as well as hiked prices of farm inputs, is frustrating farmers across the country. Up to now, there is still a shortage of subsidized fertilizer, an issue that has led to farmers looking for alternatives.
The government announced last week that it is seeking to procure 804,000 more bags of subsidized fertilizer from local traders even as the planting season is already nigh.
Through a tender notice, the Ministry of Agriculture noted that it was ready to receive bids from potential suppliers by April 9th, 2019 for purchases that have been divided into five lots.
The move came after the government, through NCPB announced that the distribution of one million bags of fertilizer was to start before the end of the week of March 11.
According to NCPB, 635,000 bags of fertilizer had been purchased under Access to Government Procurement Opportunities (AGPO) while 400,000 bags were carry-over stocks from previous imports.