Economy

Decline in maize, beans stocks threatens food security

Most farmers in Rift Valley, the country’s food basket, have low stocks of maize and beans with most having exhausted their harvest. Photo/File
Most farmers in Rift Valley, the country’s food basket, have low stocks of maize and beans with most having exhausted their harvest. Photo/File 

Agricultural experts have warned of falling food stocks in Kenya as grain farmers express fears of low yields this season due to disease outbreaks and erratic weather.

Most farmers in Rift Valley, the country’s food basket, have low stocks of maize and beans with most having exhausted their harvest.

A regional report covering January to May compiled by the Ministry of Agriculture names Bomet, Turkana, Samburu, Kajiado as counties with minimal stocks.

Parts of Baringo and Laikipia have low food stocks with some farmers now buying grains and vegetables.

“Both maize and bean stocks at household level are declining with consumption,” read the report.

The report indicates that there are less than 10 million bags of maize and below 300,000 bags of beans in the Rift Valley, pushing up prices of the commodities beyond the reach of most households.

Maize prices in Rift Valley have risen to Sh2,800 from Sh2,480 while beans have gone up from Sh5,400 to Sh6,180 amid low supply.

“Some areas within the counties of Baringo and Kajiado continue to experience short term food instability,” read the report.

Agricultural experts further warn that maize production in the Rift Valley is expected to decline by four million bags to 17 million bags this season due to viral attacks.

“The current maize stock is enough to last for the next four months, but they are decreasing due to sale of the produce to meet other needs. The beans stocks are enough to last for only two months,” added the report.

“The maize lethal necrosis disease continued to be reported in isolated places within the county of Bomet, Narok and Nandi. However there was a decline in the crop area affected by the disease compared to last year,” said the report.

Farmers in Rift Valley have been forced to change their eating habits ahead of the next harvest with food crops like sweet potato, pumpkins, and Irish potatoes becoming part of the daily meals.

Wheat farmers in the region have also expressed fears of reduced production this season due to attacks by pests and erratic rainfall pattern.

Farmers interviewed said outbreak of Russian wheat aphids, Ug99 and attacks by birds and loppers would result in decline in wheat produce.

“We have to incur extra costs spraying the crop with pesticides that eat into the expected profit,” said Joel Kosgey, a farmer from Ziwa, Uasin Gishu County.

Some grain farmers in the region have diversified to cultivation of macadamia nuts and jatropa to produce biofuel due to attractive producer prices.

The region produced 130.16 tonnes of macadamia nuts from 86.2 hectares last season, selling at between Sh25 and Sh45 per kg.

Cultivation of jatropa is emerging as an alternative for some farmers in the region with a total of 31.6 hectares of land put under cultivation of the crop last year.