Livestock farmers are appealing to the government to allow the importation of genetically modified (GMO) raw materials for animal feeds. According to Martin Kinoti, the Secretary General at the Association of Kenya Animal Feed Manufacturers (AKEFEMA), Kenya relies on imports of raw materials for feed such as maize, soya, sunflower and cottonseed cake from neighbouring countries like Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia and Malawi. When these countries face production challenges, Kenya experiences severe shortages. So far, at least 36 feed millers have closed shop within the last one year owing to scarcity of raw materials.
“Globally, there is serious competition between animals and human for grains leading to a shortage of the same and rise in prices,” Kinoti said speaking during the recent national dialogue on animal feed system in Kenya hosted by Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB-Kenya).
Dr Margaret Karembu the Director at International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) Africentre said 80 per cent of soybeans and 30 per cent of the maize available in the international markets are genetically modified.
One of the solutions offered by AKEFEMA is for the government to revitalise local production of maize, wheat and barley by increasing the acreage under maize in Kenya which has been declining over the years.
Prof Joel Ochieng the Secretary General at Kenya University Biotechnology Consortium said if the government uses biotechnology as an intervention in the feed sector it will improve the quality of locally produced raw materials, improve feed and food security and lower energy loss. Following the unprecedented increase in animal feed prices, President Uhuru Kenyatta in October 2021 ordered the Minister for Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives to urgently come up with a framework for reducing the cost of feed.
In December 2021, the government outlined a waiver of duty for imported raw materials that is yellow maize and soybean, but put a caveat that the imports should not be genetically modified following the 2012 ban on the import of GMOs. But recently, the State allowed animal feed manufacturers to import yellow maize with minimal GMO content. The Ministry of Agriculture reduced the level of yellow maize purity from GMO to 99.1 per cent from the previous 100 per cent.