A taskforce looked into the maize value-chain in Kenya’s main maize producing regions has recommended an overhaul of three public institutions that support the subsector.
The taskforce says the overhaul would make the sector competitive and put more money in the hands of farmers.
Trans-Nzoia Governor Patrick Khaemba says restructuring of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Authority (AFFA), the Agricultural Finance Corporation (AFC) and the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) is critical in helping maize farmers access extension services, post-harvest management, financing and competitive free markets.
Speaking at conclusion of a fact-finding tour of Nakuru, Dr Khaemba observed that the legal mandates of the three institutions needed to be reviewed to align them to the immediate needs of farmers who depend on farming for a living.
The governor pointed out that the current mandate of these institutions inhibits the potential of farmers to produce the staple food. It in turn impedes the country’s quest for food sufficiency.
The taskforce was formed following an outcry in maize-growing regons about a glut in the market caused by cheap imports and delayed payments for maize delivered to NCPB in the previous.
As the protracted standoff between famers and NCPB threatened food production throughout the country, President Uhuru Kenyatta directed the cereals board to buy last season’s product at Sh2,500. The farmers pushed for Sh3,000 to cushion them against high production costs.
Against this backdrop, Khaemba is of the view that if the institutions were given a little freedom, improved financing and management, they would enable large-scale farmers to access cheaper loans during production.
He further says that this would enable farmers to adopt efficient mechanised harvesting and long-term storage facilities to scale down the usually high post-harvest losses.
According to the taskforce, the partial privatisation of some of the institutions through deliberate public-private partnerships will create room for private players with expertise to inject life in the utilities to the benefit of maize farmers, who have to contend with recurrent losses annually.
The high cost of production has precipitated apathy in the maize subsector that has triggered an acute food deficit as farmers opt for crops with better returns. The apathy has created ab opportunity to import low quality and cheap grains to bridge the deficit.
The Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago-led taskforce blames soil high acidity as a result of overuse of synthetic fertilisers and the low uptake of biotechnology in high potential areas, low penetration of AFFA and inadequate extension services in food producing areas as causes of declining food production.
The taskforce constituted by President Uhuru Kenyatta and Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri last October handed in its final report at the end of January.