Large-scale maize farmers in Trans Nzoia are abandoning the cereal for sugarcane despite the region being the country’s grain basket.

The county produces at least 5 million bags of the crop annually from over 107,000 acres. However, this production is now under threat as farmers like Momanyi Nyairo, 70 and Teresia Karakacha, 40, stop growing the crop that they have planted for years.

For Nyairo, a farmer in Kiminini sub county who owns 950 acres, he has been cultivating maize for 40 years but he abandoned the crop last year after 50 per cent of his maize was attacked by fall armyworm.

“I have started planting sugarcane now on 80 acres and I am targeting to increase to more than 150 acres by June this year,” he explained.

Nyairo said the government has been silent on large-scale farmers, mainly focusing on small growers.

“In the past, there used to be agricultural extension officers who would visit farmers and advise them on better farming practices but today they rarely come and that is the reason why we are facing numerous challenges in cultivating maize,” he added.

Nyairo is optimistic that he will get ready market for his sugarcane as he has already been contracted by West Kenya Sugar Company.

Karakacha intends to convert 10 acres from her 15 for cane farming this year.

She said income from sugarcane is higher compared to that from maize farming.

“When you compare the input you put in maize farming, its a lot than what you get at the end of the day. This has forced us to take another approach in farming,” she said.

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County executive in-charge of Agriculture Mary Nzomo acknowledged the changing trend, noting some farmers are growing the cane themselves while others are leasing their land.

Azariah Soi, the Kenya Seed Managing Director, said that there was need to look into the farmers’ problems and come up with policy on how land can be utilised in the region for seed production and food security.

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