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Farmers win maize price battle

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 28 – Maize farmers will now be paid Sh2,300 for every 90-kg bag of maize that they sell to the National Cereals and Produce Board, the government announced on Wednesday.

This is after farmers and the government reached a compromise so that several millions of bags that were being held by the farmers would be released, to ease the shortage of the commodity.

At the meeting, Agriculture Minister William Ruto however said that the new price would be in place for the next two months, after which the government would revert to the original price of Sh1,950.

“The intention is to mop up all the maize that farmers have. We are giving an assurance that at the end of this year, the government is going to buy maize from farmers and therefore they should prepare themselves adequately knowing that we are going to stand with them so that they can produce food for this country,” he assured.

Mr Ruto however said the new price would have to get the Cabinet’s approval.

“I will take this rate for consultation within the government and between tomorrow (Thursday) and Friday, we should be able to announce to the farmers the price the government is prepared to pay,” he said.

The commodity’s purchase price had caused a near stalemate between the two parties, with the government asking farmers to sell maize to the Cereals Board (NCPB) at Sh1,950 against their demand for Sh2,500 per 90-kg bag delivered.

The farmers therefore refused to sell their maize (to the government) despite appeals to release it so that it can feed millions of starving Kenyans. Their stand was informed by reports that the government was spending Sh3,000 to import a similar bag of maize but was unwilling to pay Sh2,500 for the farmers’ maize.

But with the new rate, the government hopes to receive close to two million bags of maize that was being held by farmers.

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Currently, the country has a deficit of 10 million bags, which the government is trying to bridge through importation. This resulted from the burning of about 3.5 million bags of maize during the post election violence, while the low rainfall (in the last planting season) resulted in reduced yields of 25 million bags, down from an average of 32 million bags harvested every year.

Present at the meeting was Cereals Growers Association Chief Executive Officer David Nyameino, who lauded the move by the government, and added that the Sh1,950 price would act as an incentive for the farmers in the coming planting season.

“We have realised that we should not be looking at the crisis because it is going to end anyway. We have to farm and so the assurance from the government that we will be getting Sh1,950 is good incentive to us,” he said.

Mr Nyameino said the farmers also welcome the invention measures to reduce the farm input costs of fertilisers and seeds, saying it would enable them to produce affordable food for Kenyans.

His comments came after Mr Ruto announced that about two million bags of subsidised fertilizer would be in the market by mid-March.

The Minister disclosed that about 300,000 bags of the imported commodity had already arrived and was being sold at a reduced price of between Sh2,000 and Sh3,000, up from a high of Sh6,000 three months ago.

Mr Ruto observed that the discounted rate had forced the private sector to lower their prices by almost half to about Sh3,200.

“The fertiliser is being sold in South Rift and other regions where farmers are preparing to plant. As a result it has influenced fertiliser dealers to reduce their prices and catch up with those being offered by the government,” he boasted.

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