By Jackson Okoth
The cost of maize flour and other basic foodstuffs is expected to fall significantly over the next five years. This is if investors and the Government complete work on the 1.8 million-acre irrigated farm, located at the Coast.
In an international tender floated by the National Irrigation Board (NIB), firms interested in farming on the ranch are invited to bid for parcels within the Galana and Kulalu ranches, located in Kilifi and Tana River counties.
This is to be done through a public-private partnership arrangement that will see the Government pump in between Sh110 billion and Sh150 billion to construct the main irrigation pipes and other support infrastructure.
The private sector will provide an additional funding of close to Sh150 billion bringing the overall investment in the irrigation project to Sh250 billion.
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In a report by Tegemeo Institute, farmers harvested 28.9 million bags of maize during the long rains season, against an initial projection of 43.4 million bags for the 2013/14 crop season. This level of performance leaves the country with a shortfall of 14 million bags, given an annual national consumption of between 40 million and 43.5 million bags.
Agriculture Cabinet secretary Felix Koskei said the Government expects investors in these areas to not only concentrate in growing of crops but also processing and packaging so that the end product is sold directly to supermarkets and retail outlets as finished goods.
When fully operational, the Galana ranch is expected to produce between 30-40 million bags of maize, from the 500,000 acres that will be set aside.
Another 200,000 acres will be put to sugar production.
“When up and running, this project will bring to an end ongoing shortages in maize-the country’s stable food crop as well as sugar,” Koskei said. “There are plans to also set up a city on a 20,000 acre piece of land as well as an airport within the ranch, making investment in this region integrated and complete,” Koskei told The Standard on phone from Kampala, Uganda.
It is proposed that 500,000 acres will be used to grow maize and other rotational crops such as beans and sorghum.
Another 200,000 acres will be for sugarcane, 150,000 acres for beef and game animals and 50,000 acres for horticulture crops including potatoes and groundnuts.
Some 50,000 acres will be for dairy animals and value added products while another 50,000 acres will be used to grow orchards, mangoes and guavas.
A plan by Jubilee Government to develop the Galana ranch is happening when Kenya has developed just 450,000 acres of its estimated potential of three million acres under irrigation since independence - a period of 50 years.