The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya's Food Security Not So Gloomy in 2014

The price of maize is likely to increase early this year according to a food assessment report. The 2014 high and medium rainfall areas (HMRA) food situation assessment report states that there will be a shortfall of maize after May to end of June when the first harvest is expected.

"In view of this, prices of maize are likely to slightly increase after April 2014 but the shortfall will be easily covered by cross border trade imports so the country will not experience any shortages," the report said.

The report prepared by the Ministry of Agriculture in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organisation and other partners from the sector attributes this to the poor rainfall distribution and the Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease in the South Rift counties.

There was a slight drop in the yield especially for maize and beans but there was improved production of rice, wheat and other roots and tubers crops.

The current short rains are characterised by late onset and are likely to cease much earlier, according to forecast by the meteorology department. Overall, low performance of crop production is expected during the current short rains compared to the 2012 season.

The reported further states that household food stocks are currently good in most of the counties except for areas such as Migori and Vihiga which were hard hit by the floods and production is below normal due to land sizes and low use of fertilisers.

"In addition, average stocks held by farmers has gone down in 2013 compared to 2012 as most farmers are selling maize to traders to enable them buy other household goods. In the North and South Rift, farmers are beginning to purchase fertilisers and as such they are disposing off their stocks to traders. Despite decline in stocks level and projected deficit, the maize balance sheet after May 2013 indicate that imports from neighbouring countries have been lower in 2013 compared to 2012," the report says.

If the borders remain open and external trade continues normally with households diversifying their food consumption especially after May, there is likely to be no major cause for alarm with regards to overall food security situation in the country according to the projections.

Livestock productivity is expected to improve based on the short rains but only for a short duration due to early cessation in most of the areas. The biggest challenge currently for livestock keepers is the high cost of feeds and diminishing areas under forage crops.

"The early part of 2014 will be fair for dairy farmers as maize stover is still available. However in the latter part of the first quarter before the rains commence, dairy farmers will need to boost the feeds by supplementation from hay. Milk availability is good and will be stable for a while in the first quarter," the report states.

The access of seed fish for fish farmers was cited as a major challenge where many ponds remain unstocked and this may result in decreased output from aquaculture.

"The feeds are equally expensive and as such the size of fish being harvested is below the normal weight for table size fish," the report concludes.

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