Flour crisis as maize harvest to fall by 4.3m


A maize shelling site in Uasin Gishu last December. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Maize production will drop by 4.3 million bags this year on delayed rains and armyworm attack, setting the stage for expensive maize flour next year.

Ministry of Agriculture projects harvests of 32.8 million bags, down from to 37.1 million 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 price of a two kilogramme packet of maize flour jumped by nearly half to Sh150 in April from the similar period last year, following grains shortage that saw the cost of bag nearly double to Sh4,500.

“Poor crop performance is expected to continue over most parts of south eastern Kenya, the situation is, however, likely to improve in the agriculturally high-potential areas of Kitale, Eldoret, Kakamega, Kericho, Kisii and Nandi Hills areas,” said the ministry.

“The overall crop performance may be dictated by how the Fall Armyworm is controlled managed in these areas.”

The crop-eating caterpillars known as fall armyworms have ravaged parts of North Rift, especially in Trans-Nzoia.

The pest threatens production at a time when Kenya is battling effects of drought that has pushed the cost of maize flour and other foods to record levels and driven up inflation to a near-five year high.

READ: Armyworms ravage 8,000 acres of maize in Trans Nzoia

Rift Valley accounts for 60 per cent of Kenya’s maize produce while Nyanza and Western have a 25 per cent share — making produce from the three regions critical for the country’s food security.

Kenya has recently become a maize-deficit country and relies on imports. The country last week announced a Sh6 billion subsidy to maize importers to help lower the cost of flour.

It plans to import 2.9 million bags of maize in June and subsidise up to about 5 million bags until harvest time.

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 2kg packet of flour to Sh90.

Prices of foods have become a political headache for President Uhuru Kenyatta as he seeks a second term in August elections. He is running against opposition leader Raila Odinga, who has used cost of living to portray the government as incompetent.