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Economy

Maize harvest set to delay by month on late rains

A farmer weeds her maize crop at Cheplaskei in Uasin Gishu. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA
A farmer weeds her maize crop at Cheplaskei in Uasin Gishu. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA 

The 2017 main crop harvest will be delayed by a month on late rains and planting in the North Rift, the country’s bread basket.

Farmers in Trans-Nzoia and Uasin Gishu counties normally start planting maize in March when the long rains season begins, but they delayed this year until mid-April.

Director of crops in the Ministry of Agriculture Johnson Irungu said harvesting would start in December as opposed to mid-October.

A shortage of maize has forced Kenya to turn to imports to curb rising flour prices that hit a record Sh153 in April.

“There were delays in the onset of long rains delaying the planting exercise by a month, this implies that harvesting will start a bit late,” said Dr Irungu. He said Kenya expects a good crop this year despite delayed rains. Crops in the North Rift start tussling in May, but are currently below knee level.

The country expects short rain crops from the South Rift and eastern Kenya starting July to ease the current shortage of the staple.

The Cereal Growers Association (CGA) said the crop has performed well and they expect two million bags to be injected into the market in July.

“We are expecting a good crop unlike last year. This harvest is going to create a huge impact on the market as we expect prices to come down from the current highs,” said CGA chief executive Anthony Kioko in an earlier interview. The drought caused near total crop failure last year.

This led to reduced production of 34.5 million bags, creating a shortfall of about 7.5 million bags of maize nationally. 

The early crop plays a major role in stabilising the market as it supplements stocks from the November main harvest.

Millers are also banking on the short rain crop, which is poised to increase supply of the produce in the market.

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