Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Kenya's Food Security out put grim despite bid to boost it

Last week the Ministry of Agriculture released 517 metric tonnes of seeds for drought-tolerant crops valued at Sh178 million.

The vehicle carrying the seeds was flagged off by the minister, Sally Kosgei, with the seeds scheduled for distribution to farmers in 31 counties for planting during the long rains.

Ninety-nine districts were selected to bolster food security by planting the high- value seeds in the arid and semi-arid areas.

These include sorghum, millet, pigeon peas, cowpeas, green grams along with cassava cuttings and sweet potato vines that farmers will be able to purchase at highly subsidised prices.

Apart from being able to mature with little rainfall the seeds are rich in nutrients, hence the government’s continued efforts to popularise them.

The 2012-2013 short rains season assessment report initiated by the Kenya Food Security steering group reveals that the country’s food insecure population declined from 2.1 million people in August 2012 to 1.1 million people in February 2013.

This is attributed to the significant improvement of the short rains towards the end of the season as many areas received average rainfall while some surpassed this.

The Kenya Metrological Department’s forecast project that the western and coastal parts of the country will experience between normal and above normal levels of rainfall.

They also note that the rains are expected to end early across the pastoral areas and coastal lowlands.

The March 2013 food security assessment report by the Ministry’s department of crop management shows that 40 million bags of maize were produced last year, with current stocks as at end of February  estimated to be 26 million bags.

There was an increase in the production of drought tolerant crops of up to 200,000 (90kg) bags.

Use of uncertified seed and low adoption rate of the drought tolerant crops by farmers were cited as reasons for output falling below the estimated potential.

Farmers are just recovering from a succession of failed planting seasons as the 2012 long rains were erratic in some parts.

The main seed producer, the Kenya Seed Company, last week also announced a 20 per cent increase in the prices, citing an increase in the cost of production.