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Maize is one of the most important crops grown in Kenya. It is important as a basic staple, a source of income to many Kenyans, a source of raw material for a budding manufacturing industry as well as a source of foreign exchange. In fact, maize has been identified by the government as a major growth factor in agriculture. The principal reason behind this rather special government ranking of the maize industry is that, whereas about 90 percent of the Kenyan population depends on maize as their basic staple food, the country was unable to produce sufficient maize to meet domestic requirements until the early 1970's. Frequent shortages of maize have sometimes resulted in serious famines which, a part from causing a lot of suffering to many people, have also caused embarrassment to the various administrations of this country whose agriculture in general, has been described by some as "second to none" in independent Africa. The purpose of this paper is to attempt to evaluate the performance of the present maize marketing system and to develop a framework to determine what would be the overall impact of a return to the free market system. Our motivation for attempting to carry out an evaluation of the present official maize marketing system and a framework to determine the overall impact of the proposed reform stems from two considerations: (1) charges that have been made against the system by various groups of people have been largely unsupported by significant evidence--particularly those relating to market failure, and (2) it appears that the recommendations given by various experts that the present official marketing system be replaced by a free market have been made without detailed understanding of the marketing system as it now operates and consequently, other possible alternatives for the marketing of this important commodity have not been duly considered.


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