challenges facing maize production in Kenya

Maize production in Kenya is grappled by several challenges including high cost of farm inputs, fake fertilizers and most recently, the corruption scandals rocking the National Cereals Produce Board (NCPB)

The NCPB Maize Scandal in a single quote: “There are traders that just drive in lorries of maize to the depots and intimidate officers at the depots claiming they have a letter of authorization from the ministry of agriculture.”

Traders Diluting Maize Production In Kenya

A maize farmer from the North Rift who did not want his name disclosed said that while farmers have to queue for five ten days at various depots to sell their maize, some traders just drive in and deliver their maize.

Agriculture cabinet secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri said the forensic audit report on the NCPB maize scandal showed that one trader sold 212,000 bags of maize to the board. In total, 18 traders masquerading as farmers, according to the audit carried out this month, were paid Sh. 2 billion in a span of three months after delivery of the produce.

The money, he said, was enough to pay 5,000 Kenyan maize farmers at a time when the government is still struggling to pay 3,800 farmers who are each owed not less than Sh800,000 by the ministry. The CS, however, denied any looting of money at NCPB but regretted that the money had been paid to the wrong people at the expense of maize farmers.

Factors affecting maize production in Kenya

Maize production in Kenya is hampered by the unlawful trade practices that involve buying of cheap maize from neighboring countries and stacking them up at NCPB silos at the expense of local farmers

He said the officials have been working in cohort with the traders and giving them priority in buying maize while genuine farmers are made to wait. Normally, farmers deliver maize to the silos and have to present a letter signed by the chief, ward administrator and an officer from the ministry of agriculture.

The depot manager then tests if the maize is dry and meets the required moisture content of 13.5 percent. Once this is verified and all the requirements have been met, a farmer is issued with a receipt waiting to receive money in the bank in two weeks time. But this year, there has been a delay in payments and farmers who delivered maize as early as January are yet to be paid, six months later.

The farmers have had to protest over delayed payment while traders who bought cheap maize from Uganda and sold it to the silos have already received 80 percent of the payment. Since October last year, the government has bought maize worth Sh11.4 billion maize from farmers. Out of this, Sh. 7.8 billion has been cleared.

But last week, the government released another Sh. 1 billion to pay 3,200 farmers and clear part of the Sh2.6 billion owed to them. This prompted auditing of maize buying reports at the cereals board. Following this, the NCPB managing director Newton Terer resigned while eight regional and depot managers were suspended until further investigations have been concluded.

Subsidized Fertilizer For Maize Production

The scandal also involved subsidized fertilizer where cartels colluded with NCPB officers to re-package and resell it to farmers at exorbitant prices. This is not the first time the cereal board has been hit by corruption cases in maize dealings and the government seems not to be learning from the repeat of the scandals.

In 2008, more than 800,000 bags of maize with Sh. 150 million were allocated to brief-case millers at a time when the country was facing maize shortage. The Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission carried out investigations and recommended disciplinary action against board officials but nothing has happened yet.

In May 2016, 22 officers at the board were suspended for theft of subsidized fertilizer. The officers were sent packaging for involvement with unscrupulous traders who repackaged and sold government fertilizer to farmers at high prices.

NCPB is also at the centre of a Sh. 2 billion maize scam where unscrupulous traders pocketed the money at the expense of genuine maize production farmers in North, South and Lake regions. Members of Parliament from the Public Accounts Committee said the cereals board has been left at the mercy of cartels.

Way Forward

Maize production farmers in the Rift Valley have called for an overhaul of the NCPB and urged the CS to carry out an in-depth probe. Antony Kioko, the Cereal Growers Association chief executive officer, said the board should be disbanded and all the depots should be put under the County Governments who will look for market for the farmers.

Kiunjuri said he was ready to face the consequences of his actions but he will not stand and allow impunity to to take place at the expense of poor farmers. The CS said that they will be carrying out fresh registration of all farmers in the country to ensure that going forward, only genuine farmers will benefit from government’s subsidized programs including that of fertilizer.

Only farmers in saccos and those who own large farms will qualify to get subsidized fertiliser, according to the Agriculture chief administrative secretary Andrew Tuimur. This means small scale farmers who are not in registered groups will not benefit from the government’s subsidized fertilizer.

Tuimur said the move is aimed at weeding out unscrupulous traders who have been exploiting farmers for many years. Traders have been colluding with officials from the National Cereals and Produce Board to milk money from farmers through selling adulterated fertilizer.

Last week, crops development PS Richard Lesiyampe told the National assembly that traders had been repackaging the fertiliser with glass and rocks and selling it to farmers at exorbitant prices. He said the traders sold subsidised fertiliser to farmers at Sh. 3,500 instead of Sh. 1,500 for a 50kg bag.

In March, farmers from the Rift valley region accused NCPB of putting them through a long process of accessing subsidised fertiliser. Some farmers were also not able to plant in time as they could not get the DAP fertilizer they had ordered and paid for but were instead being forced to take NPK fertiliser. Though agriculture extension officers have been encouraging farmers to use NPK for planting instead of DAP which if used for a long time makes the soil acidic.

challenges facing maize crop production

Chief Administrative Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Andrew Tuimur says the ministry has started a comprehensive registration process in order to cushion farmers from being exploited.

“We have advertised for enumerators who will help us collect details such as name of the farmer, acreage, type of crops grown, livestock kept and any other activity that the farmer is doing,” he said.

Tuimur confirmed that registration will start in June 2018 and will continue through the financial year. It will be done in three phases but pretesting will be done in Machakos County and piloting will be carried out in Kiambu and Kajiado Counties.

Phase one of the registration exercise will be done in Uasin Gishu, Trans Nzoia, Nandi, Siaya, Bungoma, Bomet, Laikipia, Kirinyaga, Narok, Elgeyo Marakwet, Nakuru, Nyeri and Kakamega counties.

Phase two will include Kisii, Kiambu, Nyamira, Murang’a, Machakos, Makueni, Nyandarua, Embu, Meru, Tharaka Nithi and Kisumu counties. The remaining 23 counties will be in phase three of the registration exercise.

This article first appeared in the August 2018 Edition of the Cereal Growers Association (CGA) Magazine, The Sower

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