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Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Empowering smallholder farmers through grain bulking and marketing

By Simon Munyeki
Collective aggregation and marketing of cereals usually ensures that farmers have better negotiating power for better terms of trade as well as easy access to large and structured markets outlets.
Despite the many benefits of grain bulking, most warehouses in Laikipia County are operating under capacity.  Ndurumo Cereal Bank, Sipili Cereals and Marketing Cooperative Society, Ol-Moran Cereal Bank, Ng’arua Cereals and Produce Cooperative and Ng’arua Millers have a combined capacity of 26,000 bags although currently less than 2,000 bags are in the warehouses.
In order to improve grain storage in Laikipia West the Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme (ASDSP) in collaboration with the Eastern Africa Grain Council (EAGC) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Fisheries, organized for a training on grain bulking at Kinamba Catholic Church in Githiga Ward for eight maize value chain groups on May 26, 2016.
Mr. Kipyegon Kipkemei,EAGC training farmer representatives on grain bulking
Speaking during the training Mr. Kipyegon Kipkemei, EAGC urged farmer organizations to aggregate their cereals instead of selling cheaply to traders. He said that EAGC is working with cereal banks in the ward to ensure that they receive Warehouse Receipt System certification.
He noted that Ng’arua cereals and Produce Cooperative Society is already enjoying the benefits of warehouse receipt system. This has helped to mobilize agricultural credit by creating collateral for the members.
“Utilizing the available storage facilities would reduce post-harvest losses as it would reduce cases of pest infestation, aflatoxin and cereals would be dried to the correct moisture content,” said Mr. Kipyegon.
Members of the cooperative are able to access better storage facilities as well as reduced risks in the agricultural markets. He said that the members of the cooperative have the option to sell when they can get the best price for their cereals.
This reduces exploitation during the harvest season when the farm gate prices are low. He said that while waiting for prices to appreciate, the depositor could access loan from financial institutions of up to 60-80% of the current market value of the grains stored.
He said that good and sustainable bulking requires adequate stocks, quality stocks, proper storage facilities, proper grain handling equipment, proper records, and good disposal.
“Bulking is about quality as it would ensure that the stored grains are cleaned and graded. It also helps to access both the home grown school meal market and other structured demand markets,” said Mr. Kipyegon.
Mr. Bob Aston, Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) addressed the challenges faced by farmer organizations. He cited governance, lack of entrepreneurial skills, poor financial management skills, and lack of sustainability mechanisms as some of the issues that has prevented the utilization of cereal banks in Laikipia West.
“We hope that through such trainings the warehouses will be utilized next season. On-farm storage facilities are a challenge as most farmers lose their cereals through post-harvest losses,” said Mr. Aston.
During the training, the management committee of the warehouses agreed to formulate plans that would ensure communities benefit through the warehouses. A starting point is to ensure that all the warehouses receive warehouse receipt system.
Training communities on bulking and marketing of cereals can play a critical role in ensuring farmers receive better prices for their cereals. Most farmers who usually sell as individuals always sell at low prices thus failing to benefit from their enterprises.
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