Wheat harvest in the North Rift is projected to fall by 30 per cent thanks to the high cost of production, heavy rains and delays in payment for deliveries.
“The weather has made it difficult for mechanisation and wheat farming must be fully mechanised unlike maize where planting can be done by hands. Finances could have been a contributing factor bearing in mind that there were delayed payments by NCPB,” said Trans Nzoia Agriculture minister Mary Nzomo.
She is also the chairperson of a caucus of 47 agriculture executives.
Wheat in the North Rift is mainly grown in Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu and parts of Elgeyo-Marakwet counties.
Kenya produces less than 500,000 tonnes of wheat against consumption of over one million tonnes, forcing the country to import to plug the deficit.
Farmers who spoke to the Sunday Nation said they have reduced the area under production of the crop.
Mr George Kibet, a wheat grower from Moiben, said he reduced the acreage to 30 from 50 last season and planted more maize, citing better prices.
The government had increased the prices as a rebate to high cost of production due to fall armyworm invasion and drought reported in the country.
“In 2017 and 2018, the government raised the prices to Sh3,000 and Sh3,200 per 90 kilogrammes bag that made most of us to reduce the number of acres under the wheat crop,” he added.
According to the farmer, the cost of production when growing maize is relatively lower compared to that of wheat. The cost of production of maize per acre is Sh33,000 compared to Sh38,000 for wheat.
“From an acre, one c+an get on average 15 bags while maize can get 30 bags. Herbicides and fungicides are also expensive because you have to do up to three spraying regimes yet the market prices stand between Sh2,600 and Sh3,000,” he said.
Sky-rocketing fuel prices have made farming difficult since “the price of diesel has hit an all-time high of Sh105 per litre from Sh85 and you must power the equipment for various operations, which most farmers cannot afford”.
Ms Helen Kirarei, a farmer from Cheplaskei in Kesses who supplied 400 bags to the cereals board in January, is among those who are yet to get their dues. She had hoped to get prompt payment to enable her to grow wheat, but that was not to be.
The board owes her over Sh1.4 million for her deliveries and delayed payment has resulted in reduced cultivation from 50 acres last season to just 30.