maize
maize

However, as they seek more harvest in the second season come February next year, a silent crisis is emerging.

maize
maize

Maize prices have dropped drastically in the East African nation, hitting a new low that is squeezing farmers. A 90kg bag of the commodity is currently going for as low as 10 U.S. dollars in the breadbasket regions of Rift Valley.

Prices have dropped in the last two weeks from at least 27 U.S. dollars a bag mainly due to increased harvest. Although, there has also been a rise in cheap imports from the neighbouring Uganda and Tanzania.

Farmers in the East African have in the past weeks rushed to harvest to avoid the El Nino rains from destroying their maize in the fields.

The intensified harvest has, therefore, led to a glut in the market that is currently hurting farmers.

“Once again, things have not improved for the maize farmer this year as we had expected. The El Nino rains have even complicated matters for us because everyone rushed to harvest as we had been advised but this is coming at a cost,” farmer Solomon Aluvale, who is based in Likuyani in Western Kenya, lamented on Wednesday.

The farmers’ plight is exacerbated by the fact that the government has not started buying their produce. Last year, government bought their produce at 21 dollars although farmers were pushing for at least 24 dollars per bag.

For the Kenyan farmer to break even due to high cost of production, they must sale a bag for at least 20 days, prices that the market does not offer.

“The government’s National Cereals and Produce Board offers the best deal because even millers now are buying imports because they are cheaper,” said Aluvale.

The farmer described the dilemma facing them currently as a crisis.

“If it were not for the El Nino rains, some farmers would have left their maize in the fields to stay there for long but everyone harvested and yet a good number of them have no proper storage facilities. So where does the maize go with the current low price?” posed the farmer who grows maize on 20 acres.

Aluvale foresees a rise in post-harvest losses due to the poor storage. Normally, East African nation’s farmers lose 10 percent of their produce to pests and diseases that arise due to poor handling of the grain after harvest.

As at September, the county had 15 million 90kg bags of maize, with farmers holding about seven million bags, traders’ 2.4 million bags, millers 1.1 million and the cereals board four million bags, according to the ministry of agriculture.

The farmers were expected to supply 22 million bags at the end of the harvesting season this month to push stocks available by December to over 30 million bags.

Cereal Growers Association CEO Anthony Kioko noted that the low prices are not good for farmers as many would reduce acreage under maize in the next planting season.

“I am not planting again maize in this El Nino rains season. I am going for cabbages and tomatoes. I am tired of the maize woes,” said Peter Kipkorir, a farmer in Uasin Gishu.

Korir is among farmers in the East African nation, who have embraced the warehouse receipt system, which has seen him store maize when there is glut and sell when supply is low and prices have risen.

He still has 100 90kg bags of maize stored in a warehouse in the region yet he harvested close to 300 more from his over 20 acres. That is causing him headache. Enditem

Source: Xinhua

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