Maize worth millions of shillings is going to waste in the North Rift region after government stopped buying the produce from farmers two months ago.
Several tonnes of the crop have been attacked by pests and mould over lack of proper storage facilities as farmers struggle to find a market for the produce.
“I harvested over 3,000 bags but managed to sell only 1,000 bags to the National Cereals and Produce Board before it closed shop,” Mr Jackson Too from Moiben Uasin Gishu County said in Eldoret on Sunday.
Agriculture Principal Secretary Richard Lesiyampe said the government stopped buying maize from farmers after filling the strategic grains reserves this season.
The government allocated Sh7.1 billion to buy 2.4 million bags but it exceeded the target after cartels imported cheap maize and sold it to NCPB at the expense of the real farmers.
Farmers are demanding about Sh4 billion for maize deliveries to the board.
This come amid a scandal at the NCPB which has seen top officials send packing over illegal importation and supply of maize to the board by unscrupulous traders
Led by the vocal Moiben MP Silas Tiren and his Nandi Hills counterpart Alfred Keter, the leaders said that fraudsters took advantage of their influential positions in government by importing excess maize and selling the grains to the NCPB at exorbitant prices.
Lawmakers from the region have linked the scam to the importation of over 300,000 bags of maize from Mexico for the government subsidy programme, accusing top government officials of being behind the scam.
The leader’s claims are backed millers who are demanding payment from the cereal board for the produce they did not collect before the maize subsidy programme ended in January 31.
“The Ministry of Agriculture has a list of individuals and companies who imported maize from Mexico and Uganda and it is high time it is tabled instead of taking farmers in circles to cover-up the scam,” said Mr Tiren.
The MP claimed that his name could be among the list of senior government officials, lawmakers and businessmen, who are among the 30 individuals investigated over the maize scandal for political reasons.
Mr Tiren said his stand on maize farmers’ woes has nothing to do with the 2022 General Election, when Deputy President William Ruto is expected to contest for country’s top seat.
Deputy President William Ruto has in the past admitted that cartels have infiltrated the maize sector making it difficult for the government to adequately address farmers’ plight.
“It has become difficult for the government to differentiate middlemen from genuine farmers when they take their maize to NCPB depots,” said Mr Ruto.
He said the government has put in place stringent measures to weed out middlemen enriching themselves from the grain sector.
“We will not allow unscrupulous business men take advantage of our farmers. We will not use tax payer’s money to pay brokers,” warned the DP.
The DP said the government has been trailing a North Rift businessman who illegally imports maize from Uganda and Tanzania.
But farmers have laughed off the suspension of NCPB officials who include the chief executive Newton Terer, calling it a scheme by powerful government figures to cover-up corruption in the board.
Some of the millers have been forced to scale down operations as the demand for the sifted maize flour drops.
“We have no option but reduce our operations due to low demand for our products by consumers,” said Kipnge’tich Kimutai from Ineet Mills in Eldoret.
Other farmers are now selling their grain to animal feeds manufacturers as wheat and maize prices drop with supply outstripping demand.
Wheat prices have dropped from Sh3,600 to Sh2,800 per bag while maize price has plummeted to Sh1,800 from Sh2,600 as farmers rush to sell the produce to avert further losses.
The farmers have petitioned the government to handover the NCPB functions to the county government after the agriculture department was transferred to devolved units.
“Governors and county officials understand farmers in their jurisdiction need to be given an upper hand on management of NCPB for delivery of quality services,” said Kipkorir Menjo, Kenya Farmers Association (KFA) director during a farmers meeting in Eldoret.