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Buy our maize better, farmers urge govt

NAIROBI, December 1 – Farmers on Monday asked the government to increase the purchase price of maize, saying better prices would help reduce the cost of flour.

A member of The East African Grain Council James Bett said current prices being offered by the government were uncompetitive resulting to farmers hoarding their produce.

National Cereals Produce Board (NCPB) was buying maize at Sh1700 for a 90 kg bag, against farmers’ wishes for at least Sh2500 per bag.

Bett revealed that between 50 and 80 percent of the country’s maize crop was yet to be harvested and therefore the shortage that could be fuelling the increase in prices may be artificial.

 “You know in the last two to three weeks it’s been raining heavily and this has inhibited some farmers from finishing the harvesting process,” he said.

He added that in areas like Trans Nzoia where many farmers had already harvested their crop, rains were hampering the drying process. “You will see maize being dried on the roads and stadium; people are trying to dry the maize because the millers are not accepting high moisture content,” Mr Bett said.

The farmer’s organisation urged the NCPB to offer free drying facilities in order to absorb the maize that was still being held by farmers.

The Grain Council also said it did not expect the price of maize flour to go below Sh50, citing high production costs.

Francis Kariu, a researcher, said the most efficient price of production for a bag of maize for this season was Sh1, 400 per bag not including the cost of transport.

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The Council which represents the interests of farmers, millers and traders is recommending a policy shift that would allow all interested parties in the sector to work out the best price mechanism.

“You see as long as the government keeps on meeting one group at a time obviously everyone will be keener on selling their agenda or having their case heard leading to conflicting resolutions,” said David Nyameino the Chief Executive Officer of Cereal Growers Association.

The growers have further demanded that the government allow the private sector to carry out the importation of maize, and only after checking that all locally-produced maize had been exhausted.

“It will be unfair to go out there and purchase maize while that which has been grown here is yet to be bought,” Mr Nyameino stressed.

The government has so far announced plans to import five million bags of maize to ease the shortage being experienced in the country.

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