Will this end the problems they have been facing? Well, if you are a maize farmer, and supplied maize to the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) then you are about to smile! The national government is planning to end the problems maize farmers have been facing. The farmers are set to get a Sh4.02 billion payoff within the next one week for grain delivered to the National Cereals and Produce Board.
Strategic Food Reserve (SFR) chairman Noah Wekesa Wednesday said NCPB has started processing payments after receiving funds from the Treasury.
Dr Wekesa in an interview with a local daily yesterday said the Treasury has given an undertaking to release the balance of Sh980 million to farmers before the end of the buying period.
“We have the money now and SFR has directed NCPB to start paying farmers as soon as possible. Any delays should not be blamed on my office but rather the NCPB,” said Dr Wekesa.
The payments will come as a big relief to farmers who had to wait for more than a year last season after NCPB delayed payments to facilitate investigations into irregularities in deliveries made to the State agency.
Chief Administrative Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Andrew Tuimur also confirmed that the funds had been wired to NCPB’s accounts.
“We made a promise of paying farmers within two weeks of delivery and I can say that the funds are now available for payment,” said Dr Tuimur.
NCPB’s offtake of maize from farmers has, however, been delayed by lack of storage bags which has paralysed purchasing in about 30 depots across the country.
The bags shortages have slowed the purchases with NCPB having bought a paltry 160,000 bags of maize out of the required two million as of yesterday. Farmers in the country’s breadbasket of the North Rift were up in arms this week blaming the government for lack of proper planning.
“By now the government should have planned well in addressing the logistical challenges,” said Kipkorir Menjo, a director with the Kenya Farmers Association.
NCPB is buying two million bags of maize from farmers on behalf of SFR. The stocks are normally used for relief supplies during times of famine. This comes at a time when the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) has issued an alert on an impending humanitarian crisis as the dry weather is worsening in 12 counties, which would require relief food from the State.
The agency says offseason rainfall received in a few counties at the beginning of January was largely insufficient and its distribution, both in time and space, was generally poor.
“More counties have moved into the alert drought stage, from seven in December to nine in January. Twelve counties reported a worsening trend while others are stable,” says NDMA in its January drought report.