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Experts call for hygienic food storage

NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 13 – The government should urgently implement measures to ensure that the food reserves in the country are stored in safe and hygienic conditions to cushion Kenyans from hunger should rains fail, Agriculture Expert have advised.

Steve Collins, the Chief of Party at economic development organisation ACDI-VOCA-Kenya said that while there’s a lot of food in the country now, all efforts must be undertaken to ensure food security through for example the reduction of post harvest losses estimated at between 30 and 40 percent.

“We have had a bumper crop but where are we going to store that crop? You can keep it at the government’s NCPB (National Cereals and Produce Board) stores. Quality is very important because if you don’t store your maize below 30 percent moisture content, it gets affected by fungi diseases,” he explained.

This he said was particularly crucial at a time when a prolonged dry weather spell has been predicted.  Meteorological department has forecasted a la Nina which it says could begin in October and may extend until May next year.

This word of caution is coming barely four months after four millions of bags of maize were contaminated with aflatoxin in many districts in Eastern and Coast provinces..

Saying that efforts to encourage farmers to productivity had largely paid off, Mr Collins said focus should now shift to educating them on how to handle drying, storage of their crops.

In the 2010/2011 budget, Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta announced that the government has set aside Sh400 million to purchase equipment that will be used to dry maize in all maize growing areas in a bid to reduce post harvest losses.

Mr Collins was however of the opinion that instead of making the heavy investments in driers, the government should consider providing special canvas mats especially in the rural areas where the sun-drying grains is highly practiced.

Pointing out that if it occurs, the la Nina might have adverse effects on the country’s food security from the first quarter of next year, he said it’s a high time that the government worked together with the private sector to promote indigenous crops that more often than not can withstand harsh weather conditions.

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His colleague Constantine Kandie the Executive Director of Eastern Africa Grain Council argued for the harnessing of local innovations and technology to enable the country to build resistance against climate change.

“This will eventually lead to the development of more profitable and sustainable agricultural production and structured trade within the East African Community and the entire continent,” Ms Kandie said.

Kenya, the two said could also leverage on the regional integration process which allows for the free movement of goods, capital and services to trade in grains and other agricultural produce.

“Market linkages and access in the agricultural sector are focusing on commercialisation of the sub-sector with the thrust being on structured trade and production in order to increase incomes and contribution to national, regional and global policies that impact on food security, poverty reduction and economic growth,” they argued.

The officials spoke during a press conference to announce that the preparations for an upcoming Agribusiness Fair that is slated for Nakuru on Thursday through to Sunday this week had been finalised.

About 25,000 farmers from across the country are expected in the event under the theme ‘Our Climate, Our Future’ whose opening is expected to be officiated by Agriculture Minister Sally Kosgei.

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