The Kenyan ministry of agriculture has projected a 44 per cent increase in production from 32m bags recorded in 2017 to 46m bags this year driven by sufficient rains and reduced impact of the Fall Armyworm.
The ministry says the move will improve food security in a country where 3.4m Kenyans are staring at starvation due to prolonged drought of 2017 and the current flash floods that have killed at least 72 people and displaced more than 200,000 families.
Kenya consumes at least three million bags of maize monthly according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics. The crop is used to make ugali from its flour.
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In 2017, the shortage of Kenya’s staple food maize, led to increase in maize flour prices from an average of Sh110 to Sh150 for a two kilogram packet forcing the government to subsidize the cost through imports.
In this, the government imported more than 100,000 tonnes of the produce to curb shortage thus allowing millers to sell a 2kg packet Sh90 each, a big relief to more than 70 per cent of Kenya’s 46m people who depend on the crop as food and for commercial purposes.
Since January, Kenyan traders have so far imported 77,500 tonnes of maize worth $31.2m from Zambia, Uganda and other East African countries.
The government has also bought 3.8m bags of maize from farmers mainly from the North Rift region at a cost of Sh3200 per a 90kg bag up from Sh3000 paid in 2017.
In 2017, Uasin Gishu, hitherto considered Kenya’s bread basket, maize production dropped from 4.4m bags realized in 2016 to 3.7m bags, a 25 per cent drop.
Similarly, wheat yields plummeted to 430,000 bags from 466,000 bags in 2016.
Trans Nzoia County, a high maize production region on the other hand, harvested 4.7m bags of maize down from five million bags in 2016 due to Fall Armyworm infestation and maize smut disease.
The Fall Armyworm pest arrived in Kenya in March 2017 and was first reported in Busia before spreading to other maize growing areas such as Uasin Gishu, Trans Nzoia, Bungoma, Nandi, Narok, Bomet, Kericho and Kisii among other regions.
This year planting season began in March and the crop has now attained a knee height with top dressing ongoing according to the Crops Directorate.