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Mixed feelings as maize prices drop to a low in West Pokot

Mixed feelings as maize prices drop to a low in West Pokot


Tuesday, March 19, 2024

KNA by Richard Muhambe

Maize prices in West Pokot County have sharply dropped with those who had stocked the commodity ruing why they never traded it off late last year at least to make some profits.

Normally maize prices go low during the harvesting season which is usually towards the end of every year in the region but this time round the prices have gone down when farmers anticipate this year’s planting season.

A spot-check at popular maize stores and retail outlets within Kapenguria Municipality, revealed a 90kg bag of maize is averagely going for around Sh3,000 unlike during the harvesting season last year when a similar measure was going at Sh3,700.

On the retail market where the unit of measurement is a 2kg tin popularly known as gorogoro is trading at Sh100 unlike late last year when the same went for Sh130.

A trader who spoke on condition of anonymity told KNA that his business entails buying maize and stocking it for future sale and this time it was highly occasioned by the very high maize prices experienced in the better part of last where a bag was going at Sh6,000.

“I thought this year the prices might shoot past this but unfortunately it has halved. I don’t do maize farming but always buy during harvesting seasons for further disposal the following year when there is always scarcity to make profits,” said the merchant who says that is the form of value addition he engages in.

He said the drop is hitting hard on him because he was buying the maize at a higher price but according to the way market trends are manifesting, he might go at a loss since before, it took less than six months to experience the price increase hence timely profits.

West Pokot County is a huge beneficiary of the maize farming from Trans Nzoia County which is considered Kenya’s food basket although there are notable maize growing zones within the county especially the border areas.

Wei Wei Irrigation scheme in Pokot Central Sub County also recorded some good tidings of maize production thus supplementing the food stock within the region.

Farmers in the region, on the other hand, have also not been left out in the mix since they always plough back the maize harvests though selling the produce to acquire farm inputs for the next planting season.

Abraham Chepkopus, a maize farmer, said he is yet to sell his produce because of the price drop being experienced.

He said last season he incurred lots of expenses where a bag of planting fertilizer was going for Sh6,000.

“I expected that by the onset of this year’s planting season a bag of maize would be trading at close to Sh6,000 or even more as per the estimates of last year’s cost. It is like this year we maize farmers miscalculated hence we shall have challenges sustaining our maize farming venture,” regretted Chepkopus.

He is however optimistic that with the introduction of the government subsidised fertiliser being distributed at the Kapenguria National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) depot, most farmers will not be grounded in their farming ventures since the cost is halved.

“I registered for the subsidized fertiliser although I am yet to pick my share because I am still monitoring the maize price trends before I sell off my stock to finance the farm inputs,” said the farmer from Mnagei Division in West Pokot Sub County.

For maize consumers, it is a reprieve since the alleged high cost of living seems to be cushioned by the low prices hence most families can afford a bowl of maize meal without much sweat.

“If the price of maize remains where it is or even drops further, as people who depend on maize as our staple food, we shall be the happiest lot. The high prices experienced last year almost made us want to support opposition demonstrations because it was becoming unbearable that time,” posed Philemon Kibet.

Kibet has lauded the government for the supply of the subsidised fertiliser saying the initiative may bear fruits and make the cost of maize production low hence reduced food prices which is the point of contention in any nation.

“A hungry nation is an angry nation. Fixing food prices through such mitigating factors will help cool down political temperaments hence increased development activities,” Kibet posed.

He added that the short rains experienced in the last quarter of 2023 may have largely contributed to the current nosedive in the prices of maize and beans since some farmers utilized the rains to establish short season crops.

“We are not badly off since even on the markets there is green maize on sale. Beans are also in abundance unlike other years where at a time like this a 2kg tin would be retailing at Sh500 instead of the current negotiable price of Sh350,” explained Kibet.

It is usually apparent that bean prices soar towards the planting season but this time round it is the contrary.

Kibet noted that the price drop is a reprieve for school administrations who last year bore the brunt of inflation owing to the high cost of maize and beans which forms the common diet of students.

He claimed that if the long rains commence as expected then the food prices will dive down even more hence a huge score in ratings for the government in its initiatives of reducing the cost of living.

This week, the West Pokot County government distributed subsidised maize seeds in preparation for the upcoming long rains planting season. The county government allocated Sh60 million to procure 11,363 bales of maize seed to be distributed to 136,356 farmers across the county.

Courtesy; KNA

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