Farm­ers count losses as fall army­worms chew up 4m bags of maize

Business Daily (Kenya) - - ECONOMY & POLITICS - Ger­ald Andae gan­dae@ke.na­tion­media.com Willy Bett. The cro­peat­ing cater­pil­lars rav­aged parts of North Rift, es­pe­cially Trans-nzoia

The fall army­worms has cut maize pro­duc­tion by four mil­lion bags, hurt­ing farm­ers earn­ings and rais­ing like­li­hood of flour cri­sis next year.

Agri­cul­ture sec­re­tary Willy Bett said the fall army­worm has deeply eaten into pro­duc­tion and the state ex­pects posthar­vest losses to rise to about 20 per cent of the fore­cast har­vest, equiv­a­lent to 7.4 mil­lion bags.

The re­duc­tion in pro­duc­tion will see farm­ers lose up to Sh36 bil­lion from post-har­vest losses and in­sect at­tack, set­ting the stage for ex­pen­sive flour next year.

It would also force Kenya to seek maize from abroad with ex­perts warn­ing that har­vests are un­likely to last be­yond May. “We an­tic­i­pate to lose four mil­lion bags from in­sect at­tack this year with posthar­vest losses es­ti­mated at 20 per cent of the pro­jected yields,” said Mr Bett.

The crop-eat­ing cater­pil­lars rav­aged parts of North Rift, es­pe­cially Trans-nzoia.

Kenya now ex­pects slightly more than 30 mil­lion bags against sup­plies of 40 mil­lion bags of maize to be food se­cure. This will mark the sec­ond year in a row that pro­duc­tion of the staple has de­clined, and points to a worse food cri­sis next year should the coun­try not con­sider early im­ports.

The price of a two-kilo­gramme packet of maize flour jumped by nearly half to Sh150 in April from the sim­i­lar pe­riod last year, prompt­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of a Sh7 bil­lion sub­sidy that low­ered the cost to Sh90.

Mr Bett was speak­ing yes­ter­day when he re­ceived Sh50 mil­lion worth of ap­pa­ra­tus from the Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­gan­i­sa­tion (FAO) to help in the fight against the fall army­worm.

FAO coun­try rep­re­sen­ta­tive Gabriel Ru­galema said this is part of the ef­fort by the agency to con­trol the men­ace.

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