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Kenyan farmers reject Govt maize prices

KITALE, Kenya, Dec 8 – Maize farmers held a peaceful demonstration in Kitale town on Monday in a bid to compel the government to increase the price of the staple food to at least Sh2,500 for a 90kilogram bag.

The farmers drawn from Kwanza, Cherangany and Saboti constituencies called for a boycott of deliveries to the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) until the government offered better prices for their produce.

“Yes, we will not sell our cereals to NCPB,” a banner carried by one demonstrator read.

The farmers later held a meeting at the Kitale ASK show ground where they resolved not to be intimidated by the government into selling their produce to the NCPB at the current price of Sh1,950.

"The maize sector is liberalised and this gives us a free hand to sell our cereals to anybody without any conditions,” one of the farmers said.

The march which brought business to a standstill in the agricultural town was also joined by Kitale Mayor Councillor Joshua Werunga.

“I support the farmers’ demands and the government should stop taking this crucial group for a ride,” he said.

The farmers, led by Tom Nyagechanga asked Agriculture Minister William Ruto to explain why the government could not increase the current price yet it was importing foreign produce at ‘exorbitant’ costs.

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The farmers claimed that the government was importing a 90kg bag of maize at Sh3,000 yet they were offering local farmers Sh1,950 for the same quantity.

“Farmers in Trans-Nzoia district are holding over four million bags of maize which they are wiling to sell if only the board (NCPB) raises the money to at least Sh2,500 for a 90kg bag,” said Mr Nyagechanga.

The farmers also asked the government to focus on ensuring farm input costs were addressed before the next planting season in March 2009.

“Ruto should first know that the fertiliser prices were too high during the planting season before he tells us to take the maize to the board (at Sh1,950).  What we are asking him now is not to sleep on the job,” Mr John Kosin a large scale maize farmer said.

During the meeting, the farmers also resolved to form a vigilante group to ensure no cereals were delivered to NCPB until their demands are met.

The government moved to control prices of the staple food early last week in response to public anxiety after the prices of maize flour skyrocketed to an all time high of Sh120 for a 2kg packet up from Sh48 last year.

But as the demonstration in Kitale was going on, Mr Ruto was holding another meeting with farmer’s in his Eldoret backyard pleading with them to sell maize to the government at the offered price of Sh1,950.

The farmers there had refused to sell their produce to the government demanding better prices which they capped at Sh2,360.

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