Kenya faces maize imports from April next year to cover for a shortfall of about five million bags from the long rains season, a new study by Egerton University’s Tegemeo Institute showed, pointing to potential steep climbs in consumer prices of the commodity.
The institute said a projected harvest of 32 million bags of maize from the long rains season would only service the country’s consumption demands until April.
This means the country will have to import maize to service demand from April to August next year.
“There will be a shortfall of four months and the government has to move with speed to make imports on time for consistent supply to avert high prices,” Kevin Onyango, a researcher with Tegemeo Institute, said yesterday when the report was released. Prolonged drought in the first half of the year coupled with an infestation of the Fall armyworm pest across key growing areas cut maize output down from 37 million bags realised last year.
Timothy Njagi, a research fellow at Tegemeo, warned that Kenya however faces tough import conditions because traditional maize source markets such as Uganda and Tanzania also had lower harvests.
“We have looked at projected yields in the neighbouring countries and they too do not have enough grain, implying we should be looking for the produce beyond the region,” Dr Njagi said.
Miltone Ayieko, director at the institute, urged the government to stock an equivalent of three month supplies at the Strategic Food Reserve (SFR) to guard the country against high prices in times of shortage.
“SFR is supposed to have stocks that can last the country for at least three months when there is severe shortage of grain in the country, the stores should not be as empty as they are now,” said Dr Ayieko.
SFR is currently holding less than a million bags of maize, mainly from imports.