Study predicts gloomy food outlook

July 8, 2009
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, NAIROBI, Kenya, July 8 – Kenya is degenerating into a deeper food crisis, analysts and experts predicted on Wednesday.

A report titled “High commodity prices- who gets the money?” says the country will go through worse famine in the coming season compared to the one experienced early this year.

An analyst with the Heinrich Boll Foundation Booker Owuor attributed the forecast on a study that revealed farmers were already consuming and selling green maize they had just harvested.

“When a harvest season begins and people are already selling the little they have harvested at non competitive prices, obvious implications are that there will be no maize in the silos when we need it,” Mr Owuor said.

He said the situation could only be salvaged through immediate maize importation and diversification of the kind of food crops being grown in the country in the long term.

“We have already lost between 20 and 30 percent of what we could have harvested in the Rift Valley and Western region,” Mr Owour indicated during the presentation of the report.

He noted that many farmers felt that most of the programmes implemented by the government at the height of the maize crisis were ineffective because the channels of distribution presented loopholes with opportunity for corruption.

“I was shocked to see an individual at one of the National Cereals Board silos in the North Rift come in with a big car to pick subsidised maize meant for the poor farmers,” Mr Owuor said.

Senior Researcher at the Tegemeo Institute Francis Karun is proposing targeted subsidies as a way of mitigating the problem of government subsidies that never end up benefiting the intended recipients.

Mr Karun is also suggesting that Kenyans reduce their over dependence on maize as their staple food and vary their diet as a way of improving food security in the country.

“It’s only in Kenya that a person walks into your home and finds you consuming millet flour and imagines you are poor; an attitude we need to change if we are going to control this vicious cycle,” Mr Karun said.

The report indicates that millers are the biggest beneficiaries of the constant high commodity prices while farmers are the biggest losers in the supply chain.

In its recommendations, the report is urging better policy interventions, better pricing mechanisms, sustainable production schemes, and diversification of food production and innovations as the best way forward.

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