North Rift farmers have defied a presidential decree banning maize export as high prices in neighbouring markets continue to pull majority to dispose of their stocks across the border, threatening to worsen the country’s food situation.
The farmers in the region, Kenya’s food basket, continue to ship their produce to the neighbouring states where a 90-kilogramme bag fetches Sh3,500.
The National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) has offered to buy their maize at Sh3,000 per bag while the private millers pay Sh3,200.
The farmers, especially the large scale ones, have continued to smuggle maize into Uganda through the porous Suam border in Trans-Nzoia County.
“Why should the government restrict us from exporting the produce at higher prices when it has in the past failed to protect us from cheap imports ahead of harvest, destabilising the local market,” queried Mr. Joshua Too, a large-scale farmer from Waitaluk, Trans-Nzoia County.
President Uhuru Kenyatta has banned maize exports and ordered the arrest of unscrupulous traders hoarding the produce to make “abnormal” profits.
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett has on his part disclosed plans by the government to import maize, accusing farmers of hoarding their stocks amid biting hunger.
“We want farmers to know that we are bringing in maize and whoever is still hoarding will suffer low prices since some of them have refused to release their stock at the current good prices,” warned Mr. Bett.
The export of the maize to neighbouring countries has partly been blamed for the deteriorating supply of the produce, which has pushed its cost beyond the reach of most Kenyans.
Agriculture and economic experts in the region Tuesday said maize prices would skyrocket by mid next year owing to export of the crop to such countries like Uganda where it is fetching better prices.
“There is low supply of maize and other food crops in global market that has continued to push the prices high beyond the reach of most households. This has been complicated further by the increased demand of the produce in neighbouring countries under the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (Comesa) treaty,” explained Mathews Lang’at, an agricultural economist.
Credit: Business Daily