Maize remains a key staple food for the Kenyan population providing about 65 per cent of staple calorie intake.
According to a study done by Egerton University’s Tegemeo Institute, an agricultural research organisation, majority of the population, both rural and urban, and across income groups consider maize and maize meal as the important items in their household food basket.
The research findings released this week notes that Kenya produces enough maize to feed the population based on estimated per capita consumption but when other uses like seed, feeds manufacturing are considered the supply falls short of demand.
A report from the Ministry of Agriculture indicates that two per cent of total maize harvest is used in animal feed manufacturing while another one per cent is retained as seeds.
“When this percentage is diverted from human consumption to other uses, then it cuts down on available stocks, creating a shortage,” said James Githuku, senior research associate at Tegemeo.
Eastern African Grain Council executive director Gerald Masila says the government should plant yellow maize on part of the Galana Irrigation Scheme to cater for animal feeds which eat into substantial maize stocks meant for human use.
“Kenya is a maize-deficit country and using white maize for animal feed manufacturing eats substantially into the little stocks that we have, the government has to come up with alternatives,” said Mr Masila. The report reveals that rice is becoming an important staple.
This is attributed to changing lifestyles and growth of the middle-income population as well as the general shortage of maize.
The national rice development strategy had projected that by 2016/17 the demand for rice would be about 350,000 tonnes.
Available sources, including government records, show that demand has overshot that projection by almost 50 per cent to 550,000 tonnes.
Tegemeo says that the cost of producing maize and rice has direct implications on national supply, access for consumption and household incomes.
“It is in this context that Tegemeo Institute carries out annual cost of production assessments to continuously monitor trends and driving factors so as to inform policy on necessary interventions to reduce the cost of production,” said Mr Githuku.