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Kenya’s food deficit persists amid efforts to reverse the trend

Residents of Maua queue for the Sh90 packet of maize flour on May 22 at Society Stores Supermarket. PHOTO | PHOEBE OKALL | NMG
Residents of Maua queue for the Sh90 packet of maize flour on May 22 at Society Stores Supermarket. PHOTO | PHOEBE OKALL | NMG 

This was one of the worst years for Kenyan consumers following sharp increases in prices of basic commodities such as maize flour, milk and sugar.

The trend was mainly attributed to the shortage of supplies amid increasing demand from a growing population.

Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows that production of major commodities declined sharply.

According to the KNBS April report, production of all major cash crops including coffee, tea and sugarcane dropped.

The quantity of coffee auctioned at the Nairobi Coffee Exchange fell from 5,460 tonnes in March this year to 4,562 tonnes in April.

The volume of tea decreased from 34,498 tonnes in March to 31,458 tonnes in April.



Sh6bn maize subsidy given by the government to mitigate the crisis.
Sh6bn maize subsidy given by the government to mitigate the crisis.

The volume of cane deliveries decreased from 410,000 tonnes in March this year to 312,000 tonnes in April.

“The decline in cane supplies results from the drought that we witnessed in the better part of the year which affected production,” said Sugar Directorate head Solomon Odera.

The directorate projects a shortage of 1.9 million tonnes of cane by the end of this financial year. The price of sugar has been rising since last year due to the cane shortage.

The deficit pushed the price to an all time high of Sh400 per two kilogramme packet before a slight decline to Sh380 after the government raised imports to bridge the deficit.

Kenya imports between 8,000 and 15,000 tonnes of sugar monthly but the directorate increased the volume to 100,000 tonnes from May to August.



Sugar imports vs production (tonnes)
Sugar imports vs production (tonnes)

Sugar production dropped by 28 per cent between January and April compared with the same period last year, subjecting consumers to high prices. Production dropped to 172,722 tonnes compared with 238,872 tonnes in the same period last year.

Despite opening up the market for duty free sugar imports, Agriculture Cabinet secretary Willy Bett said traders had failed to bring in enough sugar, hence the high price.



Maize subsidy given by the government to mitigate the crisis. PHOTO | FOTOSEARCH
Maize subsidy given by the government to mitigate the crisis. PHOTO | FOTOSEARCH

“We have not seen enough stocks coming in despite removing duty on imported sugar from out of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa,” Mr Bett told the Business Daily.

Kenya’s food crises has mainly been blamed on dependency on unpredictable rain-fed agriculture.

The government is setting up an irrigation scheme at Galana-Kulalu in Tana River to mitigate the problem, but progress has been slow due to lack of funds.

The project was to address Kenya’s 20 million bags of maize deficit annually and cut imports from neighbouring Uganda and Tanzania.

The maize shortage saw the cost of flour rise to a high of Sh182 per 2kg packet as limited stocks pushed the cost of a 90kg bag to Sh4,500.

To mitigate the crisis, the government introduce a Sh6 billion maize flour subsidy programme.

The subsidy is supposed to run up to the end of August when the first batch of short rain crops is expected from the South Rift.

According to NBS data, the average monthly price per a kilo of maize rose from Sh46 in March this year to Sh49 in April.



Kenya has annual maize deficit of 2o million bags. Source: Ministry of Agriculture
Kenya has annual maize deficit of 2o million bags. Source: Ministry of Agriculture

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