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Lango cooperatives hit hard by Kenya maize ban

Members of Abulomogo Maize Farmers’ SACCO are apprehensive about the falling gate price of maize grain at the private aggregating centers in Lango Sub-region as Kenya’s ban on Ugandan maize hits hard.

Kenya banned the importation of Ugandan maize over the weekend, saying that cereals were contaminated with aflatoxins, which have been linked to cancer in humans and also have a negative impact on livestock health.

Just a few days after the ban was announced by Kenya’s Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA), maize prices have started dropping in several districts in Lango to between Shs 300-350 per kilo at farm gate, down from Shs 500.

The grains are now going for Shs 420 (retail) and Shs 400 (wholesale) at produce stores in Apac town, according to Jaspher Ejap, a produce trader.

In nearby Kwania, a kilo of maize goes for Shs 400 per kilo from produce dealers, down from sh500 (farm-gate) before the ban, says Denis Aweri, a member of Abulomogo SACCO in Kwania district. 

Aweri who is expecting 40 tonnes of maize grain from his 32-acre farm, told theCooperator that he will not sell his harvest at this “giveaway price”.

“I injected more than Shs 4m into this maize, without counting expenditure on labor and other costs. Giving it out at this low farm gate price would be a waste of energy,” he said. 

Aweri said he intends to add value to his maize to avoid being cheated by middlemen and other opportunistic buyers.

“I risked my harvest last year by settling for only Shs 10m from 40 acres worth of maize; this time I will not be prey to this exploitation,” he said, adding that according to his calculations, adding value to his maize would earn him more than Shs 40m when normalcy returns.

Vicky Awor, a processor, predicts that the prices will drop to as low as Shs 200 in a few days. She said she is currently buying a kilogram of maize at Shs 350.

Awor says the uncertainty in the prices has been worsened by the closure of the Kenyan border in response to COVID-19. 

“Most of our buyers have been Kenyans and beer-making companies, but there is now low demand for beer as a result of the lockdown of bars and the blockage of the Kenyan border.”

Govt should intervene

Abulomogo Maize Farmers’ SACCO, which is located in Kidilani parish, Apac district, has 2,500 members, all of whom depend on maize farming to boost their savings. SACCO members produced over 30,000 tonnes, in the second season.

Nelson Adeka, the Abulomogo SACCO Chairperson, asked the government to intervene and cushion them from the huge losses they are sure to suffer as a result of the ban.

“In other countries, when a situation like this arises, the government buys the maize, cleans it, and looks for the market to cushion traders from losses,” Adeka said.

“In the meantime, we are stuck and waiting for direction from the ministry of trade,” he said.

He tasked other farmers in Lango to learn to aggregate their farm products, and also put trust in cooperatives for collective bargaining power rather than rely on private aggregators whose sole aim is profit at the expense of farmers.

“I know we operate in a liberal economy but we can sail through this exploitation from middlemen if we once again allow cooperative unions to work,” he added.

Fall in prices precedes Kenya maize ban

Brenda Ejang, a produce buyer on JM-Okae Road in Aduku Town Council, dismissed claims that the falling maize price has been occasioned by the crisis across the border. According to her, the price of dried maize grain started falling a month ago.

Ejang said by Tuesday evening, she was buying maize grain in Aduku Town Council at Shs 300 per kilogram, adding they are forced by market conditions to offer a low price since they have to consider transport costs for their suppliers in the villages.

“We don’t intend to cheat farmers. Our farm gate prices are determined by demand from the market, which demand is not prevalent yet more supply from farmers is expected to start coming in soon,” she added.

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