Kenya faces crop failure in coming season, warns FAO

Maize harvesting : Kenya faces reduced
Maize harvesting : Kenya faces reduced production despite growing demand. /Reuters 

The erratic weather patterns in Kenya has pushed the country to the list of countries likely to face crop failure.

In a report released last week, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) called for close monitoring of the crop situation in Kenya and eight other countries where prospects point to a shortfall in production of crops as a result of a reduction of the area planted, adverse weather conditions, pests, diseases and other calamities.

Ethiopia, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan from Africa; Asia’s Afghanistan, India, Republic of Moldova and Argentina in Latin America and the Caribbean are ranked among the other countries that are likely to produce less, the Crop Prospects and Food Situation report stated.

The data generated by the new Global Information and Early Warning Service tool by the agency earlier in the year showed that poor weather has inhibited crop production in the country, adding to the reduced production a year after the post-poll crisis.

In Kenya, the report said: “Insufficient rainfall during the initial stage of the main cropping season (March-April) is likely to have impeded crop growth, increasing the probability of yet another poor harvest.”

However the report mentioned that production estimates are likely to be relatively favourable in western maize growing regions, bordering Lake Victoria, which received near normal rainfall from March to June.

“Preliminary forecasts from the Ministry of Agriculture estimate maize production at 2.4 million tonnes for the long rains season, 16 per cent below the average of the past five years,” said the report, adding that the shortfall is likely though in the harvesting scheduled to begin next month with the gap expected to be bridged by imports.

Kenya imported approximately 1.1 million tonnes of white and yellow maize between November 2008 and mid-June 2009 in efforts to maintain domestic cereal supplies, following low production levels in 2008.

FAO also warns of high food prices in developing countries despite a sharp decline in international prices and overall good cereal harvests. In several countries, prices exceed the already high levels of a year ago or are still at record levels, contributing to the increasing number of hungry in the continent.

In sub-Saharan Africa, 80 to 90 per cent of all cereal prices monitored by FAO in 27 countries remain more than 25 per cent higher than before the soaring food price crisis two years ago as opposed to Asia and Latin America.

“The high food price situation continues to give rise to concern for the food security of vulnerable populations in both urban and rural areas, as these groups spend a large share of their incomes on food,” said FAO in a statement.

According to the report prices of maize doubled over the past two years in Kenya, Uganda, and Ethiopia while in Sudan, prices of sorghum in June were three times higher than they were two years ago.

However, in Southern Africa, prices of maize have declined in recent months due to a bumper harvest, but remain above the pre-crisis level.

In Western Africa, prices decreased in late 2008 following good cereal harvests, but increased again in 2009. In Ghana, prices of maize in Accra have more than doubled since June 2007.

Among the reasons for high food prices, include reduced harvests, higher or delayed imports, civil conflict, strong demand in neighbouring countries and regional trade flows, devaluation of national currencies, changes in food and trade policies, increased incomes and demand, and transport constraints and higher transport costs.

The outlook for world cereal supply and demand is satisfactory, despite an estimated three per cent decline in world cereal production in 2009 from the 2008 record level, FAO said.

World cereal production in 2009 is forecast at 2,208 million tonnes, 3.4 per cent down from last year’s record harvest, but the second largest crop ever. Reductions are forecast for wheat and coarse grains.

In low-income food-deficit countries, prospects for 2009 cereal crops are generally favourable and aggregate production is forecast to increase for the second consecutive year. However, the outlook is uncertain in parts of Western and Eastern Africa as well as in Asia.

reflecting an erratic start of the rainy season.

Despite a general positive outlook for global cereal supplies, 30 countries around the world are in crisis and require assistance as a result of natural disasters, conflict or insecurity, and economic problems.

A World Food Summit is to be held at FAO Headquarters in Rome from 16-18 November with the aim of securing a broad consensus on the eradication of hunger, on improved governance of the international agricultural system and on policies and programmes to ensure world food security.