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Farmers vow to boycott NCPB

KITALE, Kenya, Dec 3 – Farmers in Trans-Nzoia district have resolved not to sell their maize to the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) until the government offers better prices for their produce.

At a meeting convened by the Kenya National Federation of Agricultural Producers (KENFAP) in Kitale town on Wednesday, the farmers accused the government of disregarding their plight.

"We are not going to sell our maize to the board because the new price of Sh1,950 is an insult," said Kitale ASK show chairman Ambrose Singoie.

The officials said farmers were appalled that the government was now dictating to them while forgetting that the market had been liberalised.

"We are here to tell the government that we are not going to sell our maize to the board until it offers better prices," Mr Singoie said.

The government announced a drastic cut in the price of maize on Monday in response to public anxiety over the rising cost of the staple due to shortages.

A 2-kg bag of maize flour was selling at Sh120 last week, up from about Sh48 the same time last year.

Mr Singoie said farmers were angry that the government didn’t intervene during the planting season when farmers incurred double costs.

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"The government must be censured for failing to protect us in January when we were exploited by fertilizer dealers," he said.

A bag of fertiliser was retailing at Sh4,000 in January up from Sh1,600 in the same month in 2006.

The government has said it would import five million bags of maize to avert a food shortage caused by post-election violence earlier in the year.

Mr Singoie termed the current shortage of maize in the country as artificial and blamed hoarding by powerful politicians as the main cause.

"The politicians have secured allotment letters and bought maize from the board at Sh1,750 for a 90-kg bag with plans to re-sell the same to the board at a profit," he said.

A spot check in Kitale on Wednesday revealed that millers had reduced the buying price for Maize.

Millers were buying a 90-kg bag of maize at Sh1,800 from Sh2,200.

The government agreed with millers on Monday that a 2-kg bag of maize flour would be sold at between Sh52 and Sh72 once a new pricing system comes into effect.

The government also promised to boost maize production next year by providing affordable fertiliser and seeds.  The Ministry of Agriculture plans to import 150,000 tonnes of fertiliser by January 2009 for the next planting season.

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