Maize farmers in Rift Valley are asking the government to reduce the cost of production through policy measures and tax reliefs in the budget to be tabled in Parliament next month.
The farmers complain that maize prices have dropped to about Sh2,300 per bag from Sh2,900 after the government allowed imports from Tanzania.
Kenya Farmers Association director Kipkorir Menjo said they can not compete with farmers in neighbouring countries because of the high cost of local production.
“We are asking MPs through Parliament to put in place tax reliefs and policies that will aide the agriculture sector to flourish,” Menjo said.
The farmers argue that the government should adhere to the Maputo protocol which it signed committing to have more than 10 per cent of the national budget allocated to the agriculture sector.
Other farmers Barnabas Kibos and Christopher Kolum said opening borders for trade with neighbouring countries was welcome but the government should ensure it doesn’t disadvantage local farmers through policies and taxes that increase cost of production.
“The costs of fuel and fertiliser is high and that is why we can not produce at costs that will enable us compete in the open markets when selling our produce,” Kolum said.
He said the prices of seeds and other farm inputs were also higher compared to neighbouring countries.
The maize prices have dropped by more than 35 per cent in most parts of North Rift and Western Kenya after the government allowed imports from mostly Tanzania following the recent visit by President Hassan Suluhu.
Before the order by President Uhuru Kenyatta to release maize that was being held at the Tanzanian border, the prices in the region were averaging Sh2,800 per 90kg bag but have since dropped to as low as Sh2,300 per bag.
Farmers say the imports will affect the local markets but they anticipate that the imports will reduce in less than two months leading to a rise in price.
Large scale farmers are still holding more than 12 million bags of maize in their stores which may not be sold until imports from the neighbouring countries are depleted.
“The government should fully implement the Warehouse Receipting System so that farmers can store their commodity until the prices are good,” Menjo said.
Maize production has increased in the last two years, with farmers harvesting more than 40 million bags annually.
Agriculture officials estimate a similar quantity this year. However, marketing problems with low prices remain the greatest challenge for the farmers.
Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago has also intensified his campaign in the region to have more farmers diversify and grow high value crops rather than relying on maize.
The county has been giving out seedlings for the alternative crops to farmers.
The governor has given strict conditions to beneficiaries of the free distribution of promotional crops, among them coffee and macadamia.
Mandago says those who will receive the free seedlings should ensure the seedlings survive because of funds spent in the programme.
Already, farmers who embraced diversification are reaping from the venture.