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Economy

Farmers count losses as fall armyworms chew up 4m bags of maize

Agriculture secretary Willy Bett. FILE photo | nmg
Agriculture secretary Willy Bett. FILE photo | nmg 

The fall armyworms has cut maize production by four million bags, hurting farmers earnings and raising likelihood of flour crisis next year.

Agriculture secretary Willy Bett said the fall armyworm has deeply eaten into production and the state expects post-harvest losses to rise to about 20 per cent of the forecast harvest, equivalent to 7.4 million bags.

The reduction in production will see farmers lose up to Sh36 billion from post-harvest losses and insect attack, setting the stage for expensive flour next year.

It would also force Kenya to seek maize from abroad with experts warning that harvests are unlikely to last beyond May.

“We anticipate to lose four million bags from insect attack this year with post-harvest losses estimated at 20 per cent of the projected yields,” said Mr Bett.

The crop-eating caterpillars ravaged parts of North Rift, especially Trans-Nzoia.

Kenya now expects slightly more than 30 million bags against supplies of 40 million bags of maize to be food secure. This will mark the second year in a row that production of the staple has declined, and points to a worse food crisis next year should the country not consider early imports.

The price of a two-kilogramme packet of maize flour jumped by nearly half to Sh150 in April from the similar period last year, prompting the introduction of a Sh7 billion subsidy that lowered the cost to Sh90.

Mr Bett was speaking Tuesday when he received Sh50 million worth of apparatus from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to help in the fight against the fall armyworm.

FAO country representative Gabriel Rugalema said this is part of the effort by the agency to control the menace.

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