Fears of High Food Prices

The Government plans to carry out a nationwide Agriculture Censors in the next two years after the last one was carried out in 1969.

Dr. Dennis Otieno, Research Fellow at Tegemeo Institute of Agriculture and Research, said the move was important for food security since the data was crucial for planning.

He told this years’ World Food Day that the looming food crisis and rising prices foodstuffs in Kenya was a major concerns.

We have been relying on estimates to a great extent, especially for areas under production, stocks held by farmers. This trend needs to change so that decisions made by the government are based on accurate estimates of the total area under crops, Otieno told KNA .

Carrying out a census and registration of farmers and livestock keepers alongside the country’s national census in 2019 is a good move, otherwise, he said planning and use of existing policies will continue to pose major risks for food security concerns both at National, County and household levels.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett already said they had the tools in place for the upcoming census and that they were partnering with the Kenya National Bureau of Statistic (KNBS) to ensure the exercise is a success.

According to Tegemeo, the country this year, stands to lose maize worth about Ksh 32 billion due to post-harvest losses, slow reaction, poor coordination and communication between state departments of agriculture at the county level. This would predispose the country to increasing food insecurity.

Traditionally, the main production challenges to maize and rice production in Kenya have been high costs of production and low and stagnating crop productivity.

Otieno says that Post-harvest losses, poor coordination and input market distortions are key issues that need to be addressed if the country is to reduce the risks to food security significantly.

The annual demand for maize is about 50 million bags. This is far above the current stocks from the previous stocks held, imports, long rains harvest and the expected short rains harvest totaling about 36.4 million bags.

The food situation in the country, he added will however be a slight improvement to the scenario last year, given the current stocks which could last up to July 2018.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett, giving National food security situation outlook for the remaining part of the year on Friday said the Government will spend Ksh 7.8 billion to buy all maize from farmers in 2017/2018 season.

On the Performance of 2017 long rains, the CS confirmed that although the long rains were late with erratic tendency, a near normal performance was recorded and it is projected that 37.9 million bags will be realized from both the long and short rains in 2017.

According to statistics from the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries through Kenya national bureau of statistics, post-harvest losses arising from maize production account for 12 percent of the total output. lower than what FAO reports on developing countries.

Major losses this year have been attributed to the fall army worm infestation and post-harvest losses which has reduced the potential area under maize production in the country by about 200,000Ha and this may increase during the short season period.

Otieno says the pest was first reported in Western Kenya early this year delayed intervention services by the State Department of Agriculture extension services, made the farmers to use trial and error methods in controlling the pest using indigenous technology.

This increases the cost of producing maize by 15 percent in Kakamega County. Had there been timely interventions, the experience would have provided lessons for the high potential areas such as Trans Nzoia and Uasin Gishu as well as Machakos Counties which all planted late|, he added.

About 3.5 million people are in need of food aid. Further, there is the recent government action to raise the price of a bag of maize from the prevailing market price of about Ksh 2500 to Ksh 3200 per bag. This will not have a major impact on maize prices since only 1.8 million bags of maize will be bought from the market.

Unlike in the past when the price was set in early November, Otieno says that this year’s price was set in October and only a few farmers from Western Kenya are likely to benefit since they have already harvested.

Only 1.8 million bags will be purchased. However, due to the bureaucracy in accessing the government markets, most farmers will sell their maize in alternative markets which offer prices that are higher than the competitive market price though than the government set price, he said

Last week the CS asked farmers starting today to take their maize to National Cereal and Produce Board (NCPB) and sell a 90 kg bag of maize at Ksh 3,200

Otieno says it seems the food insecurity will persist due to high food and inability of urban poor to afford a package of 2kg of maize flour which may be retailing at about KES 112 and will be increasing from as early as January 2018.

Affordability will be a key problem if part of this gets its way out of the country. The country will thus experience high maize prices if the market forces are allowed to operate.

Causes of post-harvest losses for smallholder farmers include lack of resources, inadequate access to better processing facilities, weather, poor production practices/planning, bad transportation facilities and lack of infrastructure, premature harvesting, lack of access to good quality packaging materials and technology, inadequate market systems all lead to increased post-harvest losses.

Source: Kenya News Agency