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Report on high food prices is alarming

By The Standard | Updated Thu, February 23rd 2017 at 00:00 GMT +3
Report on high food prices is alarming. (Photo: Courtesy)

The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) has, in its latest Food Price Monitoring and Analysis report, painted a gloomy picture of the Kenyan situation. At least 23 of the 47 Kenyan counties, mostly in the northern region, are facing drought.

The FAO report states that the cost of maize has gone up by at least 30 per cent, occasioning food insecurity to many Kenyan households. The situation would have been worse without maize imports from Uganda. However, Uganda is also experiencing drought and no longer exports to Kenya.

FAO defines food insecurity as a situation where people fail to get access to sufficient nutritious food for a healthy living. Maize production in Kenya has gone down over the last few years due a number of factors, some beyond the farmers’ control.

In 2016, production was estimated at 30 million bags, a deficit of 7 million bags compared to 2015. That shortfall has to be imported to ensure food sufficiency. Frequent droughts in parts of the country, high cost of production, inputs and poor prices after crop harvest have conspired to drive production down.

Farmers in the country’s main bread basket have gone through lean times, with middlemen taking advantage of the Government’s failure to buy maize from farmers to exploit them. While a 25 kilogramme bag of seed cost the farmer Sh4500 in 2014, middlemen forced farmers to accept payments as low as Sh1,500 per bag instead of Sh2,300 per bag.

Even as it mitigates the effects of drought, the Government should invest heavily in agriculture to ensure production goes up by giving farmers incentives. Alternative measures of production should be exploited to move away from reliance on rain-driven production, especially now that weather patterns are largely erratic. The Government cannot just sit back and say there is enough food for everyone when Kenyans are dying of starvation.

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