The maize farmers hailing from North Rift are now counting losses after fraudsters flocked the region to buy the produce on credit at attractive prices, under the pretence it was on behalf of the World Food Programme (WFP) and other humanitarian agencies. They then closed shop before making payments leaving tens of poor farmers in their wake.
One of the farmers from Moiben division is reported to have lost 200 bags and another 100 to the con traders.
“The tricksters operate in various parts of the North Rift region where they have opened buying centres and are believed to have close links with dishonest UN staff,” said Zacharia Bitok, Eldoret West police boss.
Security teams in the region have since arrested one prime suspect behind the multimillion-shilling maize scam.
The suspect, Kairo Nyinya Sammy, was arrested after defrauding farmers in Ziwa, Eldoret West sub-county of 700 bags of maize offering Sh3,000 per 90 kilogrammes as compared to Sh1,6000 offered by most private millers.
“The fraudsters are taking advantage of desperate farmers by buying the crop on credit at attractive rates of Sh3,000 per bag for United Nation, promising to pay them in a week’s time,” said Bitok.
The Kenya Farmers Association (KFA) has cautioned farmers to be wary of the con traders and urged them to sell their produce to the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) and genuine traders in the region.
“Farmers stand to incur heavy losses unless they stock their produce and sell them to NCPB, private millers and genuine traders,” said Kipkorir Menjo, the KFA director.
Farmers, however, say delays by NCPB was forcing them to sell their maize produce to middlemen at throwaway prices.
“Financial challenges to buy farm inputs and meet basic needs are driving some farmers to end up selling their produce to such fraudsters,” said David Songok from Chepkumia Nandi County.
Last week, President Uhuru Kenyatta issued a directive to NCPB to buy 90-kilogramme bag of maize at Sh2,500, slightly higher than what Private millers offer farmers at Sh1,800 per 90 kilograms bag.
NCPB management says it is yet to receive approval from the government to start buying maize giving middlemen a playing field to continue exploiting farmers by offering low prices as they prepare for the next planting season.