President William Ruto has announced that the government will allocate Ksh4 billion for maize purchases this year, marking one of the highest allocations in the past decade.

The primary objective of these purchases is to stabilise the price of maize in the market and ensure that farmers are not exploited by middlemen.

This announcement comes at a crucial time in the farming calendar as farmers in the North Rift, known as the country’s breadbasket, have commenced their harvest. Many of these farmers have expressed concerns about the low prices offered by brokers for their produce.

President Ruto has urged farmers not to sell their grain to brokers at these reduced prices, stating, “We ask our farmers not to sell their produce at throw-away prices.”

The price of maize has significantly decreased from Ksh6,000 for a 90-kilo bag to Ksh4,500 due to increased supply as farmers harvest the long rain crop in Trans-Nzoia and Uasin Gishu Counties, which are the major maize belt zones in the country.

The maize purchases will be facilitated by the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) on behalf of the government.

This will be the first time in nearly four years that the government will be buying maize for the Strategic Grain Reserve after this exercise was halted in 2020.

In a bid to mitigate post-harvest losses caused by ongoing rains, the President has also announced that NCPB driers will be available to reduce moisture content in farmers’ maize at a minimal fee of Ksh50 for every drop of moisture.

There have been concerns raised by experts about potential losses during this year’s harvest, particularly with the forecasted El Nino rains. Farmers lack proper infrastructure for drying and storing their crops.

The El Nino rains, according to weather forecasts, are expected to begin in October and continue until December.

President Ruto assured farmers that even if they choose not to sell their maize to NCPB, they will have the opportunity to dry and store their produce at the State agency’s facilities.

This year, the country anticipates a bumper harvest due to favourable weather conditions and the provision of subsidised fertiliser to farmers. The government has lowered the price of a 50-kilogram bag of fertilizer from Sh6,000 to Sh2,500 under the subsidy scheme to support farmers.

The move is aimed at cutting imports and making Kenya self-reliant in food production.