Maize harvest in the South Rift is expected to drop on erratic rains and lethal maize disease in what could force the Treasury to extend the import subsidy beyond July to keep flour prices at Sh90.
A study by Tegemeo Institute of Policy and Research projects the crop will drop to less than two million 90-kg bags against a forecast of 2.9 million bags.
The harvests from the short rains were expected end of July in what informed the four-month window for the importation of duty-free maize set in March and the maize subsidy plan.
The country is offering subsidies of Sh6 billion to maize importers that cut the cost of maize flour to Sh90 from Sh140.
“The rains failed in November last year and this coincided with the planting season of the short term crop in the South Rift, this affected a lot of farmers who had to replant in February,” said Miltone Ayieko, a research fellow at the institute said.
The researcher says some of the farmers abandoned maize and opted for different crop after it failed.
“Acreage on maize went down after some of the growers opted for other crops. The effect of the maize lethal necrosis disease will also be a factor in cutting down production,” Dr Ayieko said.
Harvests from the short crop were expected to last until produce from Nyanza, western and North Rift hits the market from September.
This means Kenya would have to import additional maize before the main harvests.
Maize production will drop by 4.3 million bags on delayed rains and armyworm attack, setting the stage for expensive maize flour next year.
Ministry of Agriculture projects harvests of 32.8 million 90-kg bags, down from to 37.1 million bags last year, representing a drop of 11.5 per cent.
This will mark the second year in a row that production of the staple has registered a decline, and points to worse food crisis next year compared to the ongoing maize crunch should Kenya not consider early imports next year.
The subsidy has lowered the price of a 90 kg bag of maize to Sh2, 300 from about Sh4, 500, cutting the cost of the 2 kg packet of flour to Sh90.