The falling gate prices of maize grain at the private aggregating centres in Teso Sub-region are worrying farmers as the harvesting period gets underway.
In Kaberamaido District, the price in the recent two weeks has fallen to Shs550 per kilogramme down from Shs1,400.
Similarly in Serere District, the prices have crashed from Shs1,500 per kilogramme to Shs500 in Pingire and Bugondo sub-counties.
Mr Francis Okullo, the director of Rays of Hope in Akokma Village, Swagere Parish, Ochero Sub-county, Kaberamaido District, who is expecting 40 tonnes of maize grain from his 32 acres, told Daily Monitor that he will not risk selling his harvest at this giveaway price.
“I injected in this maize project a fortune of more than Shs4 million in labour and the rest, so giving it out at this low gate price is a waste of energy,” he said.
Mr Okullo said he intends to add value to his maize to avoid being cheated by middlemen and buyers.
“I risked my last year’s harvest from 40 acres and only settled down for Shs10m, this time I will not be prey to this exploitation,” he said, adding that his calculations are that if he adds value to his maize, he would earn more than Shs40 million when normality returns.
Mr Okullo said his breakthrough in maize farming is in the secret of DH04 variety, which is much adaptive to the weather and is high yielding.
Ms Grace Susan Akello, a produce buyer on Opopotera Road in Soroti Town, told Daily Monitor that prices for dried maize grain started falling a month ago.
Ms Akello said by last evening, she was buying maize grain in Soroti Town at Shs720 per kilogramme, adding that they would also buy at Shs550 per kilogramme but they have to consider transport costs for those who buy in the villages and supply them.
“We don’t intend to cheat farmers, our gate prices are determined by demand from the market, which demand is none prevalent yet more supply from farmers is expected to start coming in,” Ms Akello added.
Ms Joyce Akello, a processor, said the prices will even drop to as low as Shs400 in a few days. She said she is currently buying a kilogramme of maize at Shs700.
But Ms Kevin Adeu of Wegiyami produce store , who is selling a kilogramme at Shs600, says the uncertainty in the prices has been worsened by the closure of academic institutions, which are the key consumers of maize.
The other buyers have been Kenyans, and beer making companies but there is low demand for beer as a result of the lockdown of bars.
Mr Joseph Etoori, the chairperson of Teso Cooperative Union, said farmers should learn to aggregate their farm products, and also put trust in cooperatives for a collective bargaining power than rely on private aggregators whose aim is profits at the expense of a farmer.
“I know we operate in a liberal economy but we can sail through this exploitation from middlemen if we once again give cooperative unions to work,” he added.