Prepare for maize imports to avert crisis, Government told

A farm manager at DL farm in Soy Constituency Uasin Gishu County, Wesley Tanui shows a section of the maize that has been attacked by fall army worm on the farm on Thursday, July 04, 2019. [Collins Kweyu/Standard]

The Government has been told to prepare for importation of maize before end of this month when the country is set to run out of stock.  

Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development, a public think-tank, said in a statement that importation of the cereal would help shield consumers from ravages of drought and at the same time avert a defective subsidy programme like one in 2017.

Already, in the last two weeks, retailers have adjusted the price of 2kg packet of flour to Sh120, up from Sh90.

Latest Ministry of Agriculture bulletin indicate that late rains onset, poor distribution and erratic rain patterns affected the crop planted early in most parts of the country.

It notes that planting was delayed in some parts of the country and this is expected to cause a reduction in total production.

It also warned that fall army worm infestation observed in Narok, Laikipia, West Pokot, Trans Nzoia and Elgeyo Marakwet would also negatively impact production.

According to Tegemeo, things are so dire that the country will be left with so little, if any, stock of maize by end of this month. It wants the Government to quickly remedy the situation by arranging for importation of the cereal to plug the deficit.

It has also called for tracking and making available data that would be useful in helping the Government make critical decisions on food security.

Target to import

“For instance, what amounts should the country target to import in the second half of the year? From which countries, given that neighbouring countries are unlikely to have the expected quantities to fill up the deficit?” said Tegemeo.

In the scenarios that the think-tank built, the most optimistic is based on Kenya Revenue Authority import numbers, with a balance of 3.6 million bags projected by July 31.

According to projections, the country had adequate stocks to last until the 2019 harvest season. “However, the production in the short rains was much lower than expected, necessitating a revision downwards,” read in part the report.

But members of the National Assembly from maize growing areas have warned against importation of maize, noting that farmers still hold a lot of maize.

They have asked the Government to purchase the current stocks at a market rate of Sh3,500.

The price of maize flour has dramatically gone up by around 40 per cent, in what some observers have attributed to hoarding.

Millers have condemned the maize scarcity, a situation they say has forced some of them to hike flour prices.

Tegemeo, the Egerton University-affiliated institution, has blamed the current "artificial" scarcity to the Government’s unpredictable intervention and the slow response when it finally does.

“According to the January Food Security report by the Ministry, farmers still hold a significant proportion of maize stocks. For the last six months they have faced depressed prices averaging Sh1,500 per bag. Many farmers will bet on rising prices and are likely to continue holding on to their stocks until the right price is offered,” stated Tegemeo.

On Thursday Cabinet warned of stern actions against millers who arbitrarily increase the price of maize flour.

The Eastern Africa Grain Council said this year production in the eastern part of the country would be lower following the late onset of rains and cessation of the same in May.

However, in the Western part of the country, crops are expected to recover following the longer spread of the rains.

On aggregate, however, production is expected to be below average for the country.

 

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