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Kenya predicts maize shortfall of 9m bags

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 6 – The Ministry of Agriculture is warning that the country could fall short of nine million bags of maize in the expected August harvest season unless the rain conditions improve.

Agriculture Minister William Ruto said they expect about 70 to 80 percent of the projected harvest especially in Rift Valley where there are signs of improving weather conditions.

“We are still optimistic (that) with the rains coming, we may still get the crop we expected this year. We are making arrangements to re-engineer agriculture, so that the project on irrigation is rolled out in a matter of weeks to supplement whatever harvest we will get from whatever rain we will get this year,” Mr Ruto told reporters on Monday.

Agriculture Permanent Secretary Romano Kiome said the government had projected between 24 million and 26 million bags this season.

They were speaking during the signing of a Sh6.4 billion Kenya Agricultural Productivity and Agribusiness Project Loan Agreement by the World Bank.

The Bank’s Country Director Johannes Zutt said the loan will focus on funding research programmes and agriculture extension services in order to assist small holder farmers to move to business-based agriculture.

“Helping Kenyan agricultural sector transition from one that is focused on subsistence form of agriculture to one that enables farmers to participate in agricultural markets and generate income is an extremely important transition which all countries moving from low income to higher income have made and it is important for Kenya to make that transition,” Mr Zutt said.

Kenya will benefit from Sh3.8 billion worth of Credit Guarantees for Imports of Agricultural Products from the US government.

Speaking at the same function, Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta said the program would provide credit guarantees for private sector importation of US agricultural products to Kenya.

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“We are likely to continue to import food commodities for sometime in order to ease affordability of supplies,” said the Finance Minister.

“To ensure affordability, the government has agreed to extend the duty free facility for maize for another six months up to January 2010.”

The initiative under the GSN-102 Credit Guarantee Program is also intended to help Kenyans cope with the current high food prices. 

Kenya Commercial Bank has been approved as a foreign bank obligor under this program.

US Ambassador Michael Ranneberger said the US Department of Agriculture will guarantee KCB payments to US banks that extend credit for Kenyan purchases of American agricultural commodities.

“This will have an impact in helping to alleviate the food shortage that willl still be a factor because the rains have not been good in all parts of the country and there will be a significant food deficit,” Mr Ranneberger said.

“But it has a broader impact as well in helping to potentially bring some price stability and or a reduction in price when there is more supply so we are asking Kenyan and American to work together to make use of this facility.”

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