The implementation of rigorous safety standards by the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) has posed significant challenges for maize farmers across the country. These measures, aimed at ensuring the quality of maize stored in NCPB silos, have resulted in a substantial portion of farmers being turned away from depots due to high moisture content in their produce.
Moisture Content Concerns and Farmers’ Plight
The NCPB’s stringent moisture content limit of 13% has become a major source of frustration for farmers, particularly in the North Rift region, where heavy rains have hampered proper drying of maize. This has led to a situation where many farmers are unable to deliver their produce to NCPB depots, leaving them with limited options for selling their crops.
Farmers Seek Government Intervention
Maize farmers in the North Rift region have appealed to the government for intervention, urging them to review and relax some of the NCPB’s strict requirements. They argue that these measures are disproportionately affecting their livelihoods and threatening their ability to earn a living from their crops.
NCPB’s Rationale for Strict Standards
The NCPB North Rift regional manager, Gilbert Rotich, has defended the stringent measures, emphasizing their importance in maintaining the quality and safety of maize stored in NCPB silos. He asserted that the board’s quality checks are essential for safeguarding consumers from potentially harmful products.
Disproportionate Impact on Small-Scale Farmers
Small-scale maize farmers are particularly vulnerable to the impact of the NCPB’s strict measures. Their limited resources often hinder their ability to access adequate drying facilities, making it challenging to meet the moisture content requirements. This could force them to sell their produce to middlemen at lower prices, further jeopardizing their income.
Recommendations for Government Support
To address the challenges faced by maize farmers and ensure a fair and sustainable system for all stakeholders, the government should consider the following recommendations:
Provide Support for Drying Facilities: The government should explore avenues to provide support for small-scale farmers in accessing affordable drying facilities or subsidies for drying equipment. This would enable them to meet the NCPB’s moisture content standards without facing financial constraints.
Promote Collaborative Efforts: Facilitate collaboration between the government, the NCPB, and farmers’ organizations to develop a comprehensive plan for addressing the challenges faced by maize farmers. This plan should encompass measures to improve drying infrastructure, provide training on proper storage and handling techniques, and explore alternative market options for farmers.
Regular Review of Standards: Establish a mechanism for regularly reviewing the NCPB’s quality standards to ensure they remain aligned with both consumer safety and the realities faced by farmers. This would involve engaging with farmers’ representatives and industry experts to find a balance between quality assurance and practicality.
By implementing these recommendations, the government can play a crucial role in alleviating the challenges faced by maize farmers, ensuring fair market access for their produce, and promoting sustainable agricultural practices.