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Reliance on maize could roast farmers

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 2-Maize farmers have been urged to diversify to other crops that take less time to mature as the country anticipates the El Nino rains.

Farmchem\’s Managing Director Charles Mulinge said the rains which meteorological experts say will not be as severe as those of 1997 to 1998, present an opportunity for farmers to grow other crops such as beans and sorghum in order to improve food production and reduce the reliance on maize.

"Many farmers in the Rift Valley and Western provinces are experiencing various degrees of crop failure due to the prolonged drought which will have a ripple effect in food production as these are the grain baskets of the country," said the MD of the seedlings, insecticide and fungicides supplier.

The country consumes 33 million bags of maize annually against a production of 22 million bags.

Experts say the rainfall expected in most of the country\’s agricultural areas between mid-September and December will be adequate for good crop performance.

The successive rain failure has deepened the food insecurity in the country forcing it to depend on maize imports in a bid to maintain steady maize flour prices.
According to the USAid-funded Famine Early Warning System Network at least 20 million people in the greater Horn of Africa, including Kenya are food insecure.

Mr Mulinge however expressed optimism in the governments\’ efforts to address the situation by encouraging farmers to diversify production, investing in irrigation and increasing production per unit through increase of fertilizer uptake.

He also backed the use of hybrid seeds and proper crop husbandry that could lead to food security in the country and urged farmers to embrace varieties that could end the shortage of seedlings in the country.

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