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EDITORIAL: Curb steep increase in prices to fight hunger

The steep rise in the prices of basic items like food and fuel
The steep rise in the prices of basic items like food and fuel calls for immediate action to tame inflation. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The steep rise in the prices of basic items like food and fuel calls for immediate action to tame inflation. The country is already going through challenging economic times and the consequences of more expensive food and fuel would be grave to struggling households and the country’s growth prospects.

The government must adopt urgent measures to mitigate the situation that risks metamorphosing into a crisis, bearing in mind that the prolonged dry spell in most parts of the country affected farming and this is now evident by the low supplies of food reaching markets. The situation is unlikely to get any better in coming months as forecasts by the Kenya Meteorological Department have predicted unsatisfactory rains over the traditional March-April-May long rains season.

It would only be proper that the State intervenes by releasing stocks from its Strategic Grain Reserve to stabilise supplies and prices in the grains market. Further, the government should reach out to farmers and mop-up any excess stocks of maize and use them to build-up the strategic reserve. Only months ago the country reported a bumper harvest of 40 million bags of maize -- the highest production in the last three years — meaning that there could still be stocks held by farmers that the National Cereals and Produce Board can buy for release into the market.

The State should, however, not lose sight of long-term sustainable strategies on food security. The uptake of irrigation remains lacklustre despite its huge potential in guaranteeing round-the-year production of food. The current reliance on rain-fed agriculture is not helpful especially at a time when the country is witnessing negative effects of climate change.

More farmlands should be placed under irrigation and higher yielding and drought resistant varieties of crops planted to limit the negative effects of diseases and failed weather which are synonymous with climate change. The country’s commodity market systems also need an overhaul to avoid wastages during bumper harvests and shortages during drought conditions. Sound market systems and demand for proper storage and transport facilities including good all-weather access roads will go a long way in addressing food distribution imbalances.

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