Wheat acreage in Uasin Gishu has gone down from 40,000 to 18,000 hectares according to County CEC Member for Agriculture Mr. Samuel Yego.
Yego said that local wheat farmers were competing with wheat imports and that whenever they went to queue at the millers, they met with imported wheat from Ukraine and the USA which was given first priority.
“They will meet with wagons from outside the county with trucks from Mombasa offloading wheat and sometimes they don’t have a specific chance to deliver their produce hence they take so long in the queue. Local farmers are on their own, they are not supported by the government,” Yego said.
The CECM added that farmers got discouraged from the market as they were paid Sh3, 300 per bag but after deduction, it brings them back to Sh3000, which could not sustain them in the long run.
“This makes farmers opt for maize farming thus discouraging farmers from venturing into wheat farming,” he noted.
Another factor attributed to low wheat acreage is the cost of chemicals. “When the government added taxation of 16% on chemicals, it became too expensive for farmers to purchase the chemicals,” added Yego.
Wheat requires to be sprayed more than three times, but due to the high cost of chemicals, farmers were forced to spray once leading to an unhealthy harvest, noted Yego.
Faith Jelagat, one of the wheat farmers in Chepkoilel, stated that wheat farming has a lot of challenges. “Wheat is mostly planted in July but because of delay in rains, I opted to plant other short term crops. For those who took the risk, they did not get a good harvest because the seeds didn’t germinate,” said Faith.
She also said that wheat farming required a large capital investment hence she spent a lot of her money on farm machinery and labour, seeds, and chemicals, and fertilizers which lowers the profit margin.
“Nowadays, the prices are slightly low which discourages me from practicing wheat farming. Also, the delay in payments from Cereals Board has made our lives to be financially unstable,” added Faith.
Covid -19 has also impacted negatively on wheat farming. Kenya imports fertilizers and farm inputs. Restriction of movement internationally has made the cost of farm inputs increase thus making it expensive for farmers to purchase them. Farmers spend a lot of their money on their families who have contracted the coronavirus. This leaves them with little money to invest in wheat farming.
Yego said that in order to curb low wheat acreage in Uasin Gishu county, funds should be set aside to help support the local farmer, make the market favourable for the farmers, and the national government should check on the cost of farm inputs.
He added that local wheat is of better quality than the imported and if local farmers were given priority at the millers and Cereals Boards, it would help reduce cases of aflatoxins on grains.
“Let us support local farmers so that we can go an extra mile and also create employment,” said Yego.