A man carries a 90kg maize bag. Maize prices may continue rising with the invasion of the FAW despite the rains. Photo by The Star.
With the invasion of the fall army worm (FAW), the cost of dry maize in Kenya may continue to rise even with the onset of rains for planting as Busia County shoots to be the highest paying town for a bag of the cereal.
A 90kg bag of maize costs Sh5,625 in Busia while consumers in Meru are paying Sh3,300 for the same quantity.
Consumers in Kitui County pay Sh5,500 for the bag while those in Kisumu part with Sh5,200.
The price in Nairobi and Mombasa is Sh4,600 and Sh4,500 respectively.
Eldoret and Nakuru towns are offering Sh3,800 and Sh4,000 respectively, according to the Agriculture and Food Authority.
Maize prices have been on the rise for more than five months since drought struck most parts of the country from September 2016.
Although it was not the main production season of maize, the drought caused more harvests to be converted to animal feeds as pastures ran dry.
The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) says the depressed rains in Eastern Africa in the second half exerted pressure on maize, resulting in the surge in the prices.
Maize is the most produced cereal with more than 800 tons being harvested yearly throught the world. It is also a staple food for more than 600 million people in the world.
Livestock and human consumption millers have been passing the high cost of the maize to consumers with a 2kg packet that cost Sh105 last year reaching Sh160.
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The government’s move to release about 1.5 tons of maize to the millers and allowing for importation of the cereal from major producers like Mexico has seen the cost of the 2kg packet drop to between Sh125 and Sh135.
However, the onset of the long rains in accelerating the production of maize may be scuttled by the invasion of the FAW, which have spread to more than 12 counties in the western part of the Rift Valley.
They include Trans-Nzoia, Nakuru, Kakamega, Busia, Kisii, Nyamira, Kericho, Nandi, Uasin Gishu, among others. These are the main food producing regions in Kenya. The pest is spreading further to the central and eastern parts.
International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) says the pest can destroy the crop by up to 100 per cent, even as international organisations converge in Nairobi this week to discuss mitigation measures.
Even with the US’s advanced research and technology, the pest causes losses of up to Sh30.6 trillion per year.
The cost of agricultural produce has steadily risen from the last quarter of 2016 with tomatoes and maize being on top of the list.