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State can do better on food security

EDITORIAL
By Editorial | June 30th 2019

There is no justification for some Kenyans to starve. The government is poor at planning. There were clear signs that the country would not receive good rains but it appears authorities only left it to the gods to intervene. Now, the National Drought Management Authority is warning that the number of Kenyans facing food crisis could hit two million in July. They blame this on the effects of a drought that hit food production and caused prices to soar.

People requiring food assistance will increase from 1.6 million in May. Turkana, Marsabit, Baringo, Wajir, Garissa, Tana River and Isiolo would be the worst hit. This year’s production in the eastern part of the country would be lower following the late onset of rains. However, in the western part of the country, crops are expected to recover following the longer spread of the rains. That may not be enough to feed the country. The problem is that the grain business is in the firm grip of cartels who take advantage of the situation to mint billions. In the past, crafty businessmen have shortchanged farmers to supply maize to the National Cereals and Produce Board while payments to farmers who had supplied the agency delayed.

The government needs to act fast. Budgetary allocations to Agriculture are usually not targeted at areas that can improve crop production. And previous fertiliser subsidies ended up benefiting people who can afford the input. In his Budget speech, Treasury CS Henry Rotich acknowledged the risk posed by the delayed rains but critics say his budgetary allocations failed to speak to the problem. Let’s act before it’s too late.

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