Govt to help farm­ers dry their maize to stem losses

The East African - - BUSINESS - By NJIRAINI MUCHIRA Spe­cial Cor­re­spon­dent

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.

Har­vest 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

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