The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya: Maize Shortage Hits North Rift As Millers Protest

A maize shortage has hit the North Rift region. Millers are complaining they are not getting enough maize harvest from the farmers. Chairman of the Millers Association Diamond Lalji in Eldoret town yesterday claimed that farmers are hoarding the harvest in a move to push the prices up.

"They are hoarding the maize so that they can influence a price increase," said Lalji. But the Kenya Farmers Association has denied the allegation.

It blames the middlemen for buying the produce from farmers and storing it. "It's the middlemen who are buying the maize cheaply and then keeping it so that they create an artificial shortage," said KFA director Kipkorir Menjo.

"They are hoping the price will go up." Kipkorir was speaking in Eldoret town. The maize prices have dropped to about Sh2,000 a bag in most areas of the Rift Valley region. The National Cereals and Produce Board stopped buying the produce from the farmers two weeks ago.

"The only way the government can save farmers from the middlemen is to provide enough money to the NCPB," said Kipkorir. "This way, the board will have enough money to buy the produce and help regu- late the price."

Government has allocated only Sh1.6 billion to the NCPB for maize. The money could only buy about 600,000 bags of maize purchase.

Last year, farmers harvested more than 40 million bags. A lot of this produce has been bought by middlemen. Large-scale farmers are keeping more than 40 per cent of the harvest.

"The small-scale farmers needs money to do other things," Menjo said. "They can't afford to hoard their maize," He said the farmers face a grim future following plans by the government to privatise the commercial wing of the NCPB.

The privatisation will take effect soon after the March 4 elections. This means that NCPB will be buy maize and other cereals at market prices just like the middlemen. The board has advised farmers to adopt the Warehouse Receipting System.

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