Maize farmers in Busia and most parts of the Western Region have a reason to smile after their region witnessed a bumper harvest that has led to a drastic drop in the maize price from Sh.230 to Sh.80 per 2-kilogram tin, locally referred to as gorogoro.
Following a market cross-check by the KNA office in Busia, the maize price for the tin, which is the main measure in the market, is now Sh 70–Sh. 80 in the five markets of Buyofu, Butula, Lukolis, Malaba Town, and Miyanga that were visited.
Residents no longer have issues with their favorite Ugali meal, which is made from maize flour, because maize is now readily available.
Apparently, residents adhered to government calls during the planting season and properly used the subsidized fertilizers, resulting in high yields.
Alfred Musungu, an established farmer and trader near Buyofu market, confirmed that the traders are buying a tin at Sh. 70–Sh. 80 from the farmers and selling the same at Sh. 100.
“We have realized a good harvest this season, and already we have planted for the second season, expecting short rains to keep the crops healthy on the farm. We anticipate a good harvest should the government send the subsidized fertilizers on time,” noted Musungu.
However, Musungu warned farmers that this might not be a good signal as they are likely to earn less as the brokers flock to the market for maize, taking advantage of vulnerable farmers who are just recovering from hard economic times.
“With the meteorological department warning of a prolonged dry spell in most parts of the country, farmers’ woes may be compounded unless the government enacts rules that govern the sale of maize to cartels that sell back at hiked prices a few months later,” he added.
Another farmer from Amagoro, Evans Mukoit, lamented that the presence of brokers across the country with trucks and lorries moving from one home to the next to buy the precious grain might lead to food insecurity once again.
“It’s a pity that we have already forgotten the hard economic times that have been due to the price of unga; people are already selling at throwaway prices,” noted Mukoit.
Farmers are now calling on the National Cereal and Produce Board to save farmers by purchasing the produce at a better price to protect them from falling into the trap of unscrupulous middlemen.
The farmers’ woes have been compounded by the fact that the National Cereals and Produce Board has an insignificant presence in the county, unlike other regions, such as the Rift Valley, central and other regions.
Data by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) in the recently released Economic Survey 2023 shows maize imports having increased by 307,226 tonnes to hit 793,751 tonnes last year.
Farmers attributed the good harvest to the Kenya Kwanza government giving priority to agriculture, with the supply of improved subsidized fertilizers increasing the yield this season.
But Titus Ouma, a cereal trader at Miyanga Market, is counting losses as the new prices have negatively affected the previous stock that he had purchased before the glut, and he is now forced to sell at the current price of Sh. 70 per 2 kg tin.
Busia women Rep. Catherin Omanyo has urged farmers not to be excited over the high prices and ready markets for their produce because there is still an impending food crisis in the region.
“My people of Busia, be vigilant about the brokers who buy maize cheaply from your farm, but after value addition, they sell the same unga at double the price,” noted Omanyo.
“Already, the country is grappling with an acute shortage of maize. The price of unga has risen to Sh230, which is why we must sell at the right price to get value for our produce,” she added.