Govt to help farmers dry their maize to stem losses
KENYA IS offering maize farmers driers in order to stem post-harvest losses and help to feed at least 3.4 million people facing hunger.
Maize farmers have been at loggerheads with the government over prices and the decision to extend a maize subsidy programme that was set to expire at the end of September to December. Under the programme, the government is importing maize owing to a serious shortage, and selling it to millers at subsidised prices to enable them to sell a two kilogramme packet of flour at Ksh90 (90 US cents).
While the government is still deliberating on the price at which the National Cereals and Produce Board will buy grains from farmers when it opens its stores in October, farmers are demanding at least $34 per 90kg bag — the equivalent of what it is paying for imports under the subsidy programme.
Maize production is expected to decline by between 20 per cent and 30 per cent this year due to insufficient rains and a fall armyworm invasion. Heavy rains in the bread basket of Rift Valley have presented a fresh threat for the new harvest, prompting farmers whose crop has matured, to petition the government for driers to stem further losses. Poor drying has been cited as a major cause of aflatoxin contamination in Kenya, leading to losses of up to 30 per cent of harvests every season.
“We expect maize harvesting to start in the next two weeks and the government will help farmers by providing driers,” said Agriculture principal secretary Richard Lesiyampe.
Officials from the ministry are on the ground assessing the situation.
The Kenya Meteorological Department forecasting an enhanced short rains season.
“During the October to December season, it is expected that most parts of the country will experience enhanced rainfall that will also be well distributed both in time and space,” it said in its seasonal forecast.
However, Kenya is already certain of a maize shortfall to the tune of about 11 million bags due to the insufficient long rains and the fall armyworm catastrophe in which about 200,000 hectares have been destroyed. Kenya harvests about 40 million bags of maize annually.
According to the June 2017 Food Situation Report from the State Department of Agriculture, Kenya’s national food security situation remains unstable, since the erratic long rains last year that saw maize production drop 10 per cent below average. is