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Kenya will not import maize as shortage bites, CS Willy Bett

By Mumbi Kinyua | January 18th 2017
CS Willy Bett

Kenya is not planning to import maize in the next six months. This is despite serious shortage and famine that is threatening 23 counties.

The situation has been worsened by the fact that short rains, during which additional maize is produced, failed last year.

However, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett said they are hopeful rains will fall before then so farmers can produce more maize.

He noted that the country has a deficit of eight million bags of maize and that available stocks can only last until June.

"I can assure you we have enough food to last us between now and June. That is why we are not talking about maize imports at the moment, we have not reached that level yet. We are still comfortable," Bett said yesterday.

In total, Kenya requires 29 million bags of maize to feed the nation for the first half of the year. Farmers who have been producing 32 million bags only managed 21 million last year due to poor weather conditions.

"We were hoping to produce the extra bags of maize during the short rains as we normally do but the rains failed making it hard for maize producing regions of Western and Rift Valley to bridge the deficit," Bett said.

Alternative Types

The minister has urged Kenyans to consider stocking alternative types of food just in case the rains fail to come as expected.

The weatherman says the earliest Kenya can get rains is in April, even as human beings and animals in various parts of the country stare at starvation because of drought that is ravaging several counties.

Wild animals have left game parks and are now invading private homes in search of water and pasture leading to an increase in cases of human-animal conflicts. 

Many people have migrated to as far as Uganda in search of water and food. In other parts, people have been spotted feeding on wild fruits while hunger-related deaths have reported in North Horr.

Kenya is staring at a serious crisis especially after neighbour Uganda and Tanzania sold their maize surplus to Sudan and Malawi, which were facing serious food shortages.

"We have a way of tracking what farmers have in their stores and so far, we have 21 million bags of maize which, alongside other types of food which include beans, will push us if used well," said Bett.

This came as prices of maize soared. Other than the drought, some have blamed it on exportation of maize to other countries.

A 90kg bag of maize that was retailing at Sh2,800 in Nairobi last November is now going for Sh3,000 while a 2kg packet of flour is selling at Sh120 from Sh100.

The CS said the Government had set aside enough money to buy 1.4 million bags of maize from farmers to boost its reserves.

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