Researchers’ Fears of Persistent Food Crisis in Kenya

Government needs to stockpile her Strategic Grains Reserves to sustain the country’s demands for at least three months to avert a looming shortage of supplies.

A report by a research Agency has raised the red flag that current supplies at the Strategic Food Reserve (SFR) may not cushion the consumers from the high grain prices expected to shoot up when the shortage hits the market.

Tegemeo Institute Director Dr. Milton Ayieko while releasing the report expressed fears that the country may still experience and acute shortage of food stretching to April next year, a situation likely to prompt government to resort to a subsided programme similar to the one in force currently.

Speaking during the release of a report done by the institute that assessed costs of grain and implications for food security in Nairobi, Dr. Ayieko said SFR is supposed to have stocks that can last the country for at least three more months when there is severe shortage of grain in the country,

Currently, National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) stores are almost empty as imported maize is being quickly taken up by the miller to process unga of Sh90 under the Ksh6 billion subsidy programmes. The stores should not be as empty as they are now, he said

The Director further said that the country will still face a similar situation like the one occasioned in April and May of the year where prices of a 2kg maize flour rose sharply to between Ks40 and Ks50 respectively.

Ayieko said going forward the food value chain players need to manage high production cost and other factors leading to perennial food shortage every year in the country.

Researchers with the Tegemeo institute said the situation signals another round of high prices of dry maize and exposing Kenya to expensive imports to feed the growing population.

Timothy Njagi a senior researcher with Tegemeo warned that the maize production in 2017 will record a decrease of 20 percent compared to 2016 production year according to the findings that focused on production for Maize and Rice and the food situation prospects for 2017/2018.

As at the end of March 2018, the country will have stocks between 3.2 million and 4.1 million bags depending on the prevailing factors while the country’s maize production this year is expected to drop to 32 million bags from estimated output of between 37 million and 39 million bags respectively.

Njagi attributed the situation to unpredictable long rains in 2017, infestation of over 800,000 hectares by fall army worms, maize head smut and inconsistent supply of subsidized fertilizer to the expected food insecurity situation.

Kenya Meteorological Department has predicted good weather forecast for the short rains starting in the next two weeks to the third week of December.

However, this according to Njagi has led to increased fears of increase in post-harvest losses in the grain basket regions adding that once the short rains start, drying of maize will take long and handling of the same will have challenges due to wetness.

Njagi confirmed the cost of maize production for a 90kg bag is expected to remain high this year reaching between Ksh 1500 to Ksh 2,000 for small for small-scale farmers and for large-scale farmers respectively.

Njagi noted that despite the government fast tracking an ambitious Ksh 20 billion fertilizer subsidy program, productivity of maize per acre has decreased drastically over the years.

”Declining soil fertility, planting of low quality seeds and poor distribution of rainfall has interrupted the maize potential production rate per acre over the years. Giving fertilizer to farmers is not increasing production so we need to think of another way to invest and see the gains,” he said.

Kevin Onyango another research fellow said there will be a production shortfall of four months and the government has to move with speed to make imports on time for consistent supply to avert high prices.

Onyango said that although harvesting from the main crop is going on in North Rift where 29 million bags of maize is expected to be realized, output from 2017/2017 short rains season will reach only 2.5 million bags of white maize.

Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries estimates post-harvest loses to the tune of between 10 percent and 12 percent every year. This is due to poor storage facilities as well as early harvesting.

Source: Kenya News Agency