Maize prices have dropped to Sh2,000 from Sh3,000 a bag after the NCPB ran out of money to buy the crop. The government relased Sh1.6 billion to buy maize two months ago.
Most farmers have been forced to sell their crop to middlemen in the open markets at between Sh2,000 to Sh2,400. "Farmers are being exploited by middle-men. That is why we insist the government give NCPB more money," said Kenya Farmers Association director Kipkorir Menjo.
Menjo said the Sh1.6 billion was used to buy 600,000 bags of maize yet farmers produced more than 40 million bags. The NCPB has urged farmers to store their maize at the boards depots through the Warehouse Receipting System but few have agreed to do so.
"Its the best way to help farmers regulate maize prices because by flooding the markets with maize the prices have to drop," said NCPB managing director Gideon Misoi.
The WRS can be used by the farmers to store their crop as they wait for the prices to pick up. Misoi said the bumber harvest in the last season is to blame for the low maize prices.
However the board is blaming millers and middlemen for tampering the maize to hurt farmers. Farmers face an even grimmer future following the plan to privatise the commercial arm of the board after the March 4 general election.
Agriculture secretary Wilson Songa has confirmed that the NCPB's commercial wing will be privatised soon after the polls. This means the board will buy maize and other cereals at market prices.
President Kibaki signed into law the bills that will lead to the restructuring of the board among other organisations in the agriculture sector.
The NCPB has asked the government for more money to buy at least 2 million bags for the Strategic Grain Reserves. However, the government has not responded to the request. Treasury needs approval to release more money.