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    Maize grain

    By George Munene

    According to Kenya’s United Grain Miller’s Association, the country has run out of maize, while existing wheat stocks are expected to last until September.

    The price of a 90kg bag of maize has jumped 50 per cent from Sh2,800 at the start of the year to Sh4,200. A two-kilogram packet now retails for a historic Sh150.

    Kenya typically relies on her neighbours to meet its maize demand. However, it will be forced to look further ashore as Uganda and Tanzania both also experience depressed production.

    “We are going to run out of maize in the next few months and to control the rising cost of flour, we need to import the produce,” said Agriculture Cabinet secretary Peter Munya. 

     

    Related News: Maize shortage & new taxes predicted to drive up feed cost

     

    He also partly attributed the acute shortage to farmers and brokers hoarding grain.

     

    Wheat

    Consumption of wheat food products has overtaken maize across the country. Wheat is also the second-largest grown cereal crop after maize.

    Kenya imports more than 60 per cent (550,000 T/year) of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine. This has been made impossible to access by the ongoing conflict between the neighbours.

    With this in mind, the government had looked to tap the world's second-largest wheat exporter, India, to bolster its reserves and contain prices which have risen by 40 per cent this year.

    This move now looks out of the question following India’s announcement last week of a ban on wheat exports to curb soaring domestic prices.

    The Cereal Millers Association of Kenya points out that both the country’s purchasing power and wheat milling capacity have diminished due to these high prices.

     

    Related News: Russia's invasion of Ukraine to push fertiliser & food prices even higher

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    With the global price of wheat up 5.9 per cent just this week, other countries are expected to take similar protectionist measures. 

    Dry weather conditions and heatwaves across most parts of the world have resulted in poor harvests.

    According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture program (FAO) the war in Eastern Europe is worsening an already existing food crisis in Africa. Before the war started in February, the cost of food staples had risen 23 per cent last year, faster than any year in the last 10.

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    Land in Kenya

    By George Munene

    The Kenyan government will lease out idle land owned by Kenyan parastatals to private farmers in an effort to arrest rising food insecurity in the country.

    The move greenlit by Kenya's cabinet on Thursday seeks to reclaim public land and contract it out to private farmers for intensive agriculture.

    “Cabinet approved the policy on large-scale commercialisation of public land held for agricultural production. The policy seeks to provide a framework for utilising idle land owned by public institutions for large-scale commercial agricultural production,” said a press statement from Thursday's Cabinet meeting.

    Kenya is facing spiking food prices and food shortages caused by a third consecutive below-average rainy season; the Russia-Ukraine war-- two countries that make up a bulk of the country's grain and fertiliser imports -- and skyrocketing global fertiliser prices. 

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    Agriculture and agricultural-based products have risen on average by 20 per cent from this time last year, increasing the cost of living especially for the country’s poor -- 19 million Kenyans for whom 36 per cent of their income goes into buying food. 

    In February 2022, the Kenya Food Security Steering Group reported there were 3.1 million food-insecure people in pastoral and marginal agricultural areas of the country, a 48 per cent increase from August 2021.

    Some of the biggest landowners of unused parastatal land in Kenya include the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, Kenya Railways, University of Nairobi, and Kenya Prisons.

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    firstwave aquaculture

    By George Munene

    “When we first started the company in 2015, our minds were fixed on fish production, however, getting adequate fingerlings became an issue, meaning we had to figure out how to spawn our own. Getting quality feeds was the next major hurdle we faced, this necessitated another pivot to include feed production. Lastly, we realised our consumers weren't getting the cost benefits we offered retailers to remedy this we adopted a direct-to-customer marketing channel,” explained FirstWave Group Co-founder Tembwe Mutungu.

    Originally based in Zambia’s Lake Kariba, the company has capitalised on the opportunities across the fish production value chain and is now one of Africa’s leading aquaculture firms, supplying 35 million tilapia per year.

    It has expanded its production operations to Lake Victoria, Uganda, running vertically-integrated companies that cover fish production, distribution, and retail of fish and aquafeed in Southern and Eastern Africa.

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    With Kenya’s annual fish deficit estimated at 400,000 metric tonnes and Chinese fish imports totaling Sh2.2 billion in 2019, FirstWave’s success could provide a blueprint for entrepreneuring Kenyan farmers. 

    For Tembwe this represents a supply deficit that will continue to grow as wild catch (fish from rivers and lakes) alone cannot keep pace with Africa’s fish demand. This presents the continent’s aquaculturists with a great opportunity

    “We are looking to follow the chicken production curve, i.e have our fish stock convert feed to product in the fastest time possible. Despite this, we are only working to develop and improve local fish strains and not import fish genetics which might interfere with the indigenous ecosystem,” said Tembwe.

    Related News: High feed costs leave Kenya reliant on fish imports

    Across agricultural production sub-sectors, he highlights that fish provides the most sustainable and competitive protein sources, with a kilogram of fish feed producing more protein than you'll get from any other livestock. Half as better as chicken, three times better than pigs, and eight to ten times better than cattle. 

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