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Agriculture Ministry expects bumper maize harvest

The Ministry of Agriculture currently has 14 million bags in store/FILE

NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 15 – The Ministry of Agriculture is projecting a bumper maize harvest by the end of year with 36 million bags expected to be in circulation in the country ensuring there will be no food shortage.

Agriculture Permanent Secretary Dr Romano Kiome says the ministry currently has 14 million bags in store and is optimistic high harvest given the favourable weather conditions in grain growing regions.

“We are doing very well in terms of harvesting. The only challenge we have is that it’s raining too much in the areas that we are harvesting slowing down collection,” Kiome said.

Maize is the country’s staple food with a national consumption rate of 3.5 million bags a month.

Data from the Ministry of Agriculture indicates that 10.9 million bags of the 14 million bags of maize that the country had at the beginning of last month were in private hands.

The National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) holds three million bags of the national staple, nearly 38 per cent of the eight million bags it needs to effectively play its role of stabilising grain prices throughout the year.

Kiome urged farmers to sell their produce directly to NCPB since it fixed a higher producer price of Sh3,000 a bag and has a float of Sh5 billion meaning it can buy an estimated 1.6 million bags still in farmers hands.

“We don’t think we are likely to increase that price any time soon because our next harvest is in March so we don’t foresee a time where there will be shortage leading to price hikes,” Kiome said.

The ministry predicts that harvests from Western, Nyanza and parts of Rift Valley, as well as improved rains in parts of the country, will sustain domestic supply of food up to first half of next year.

“The country’s food situation is likely to remain stable in the next nine months with prices falling further,” he added.

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Kiome however said that with only a surplus of two million bags after the harvest, the ministry may allow maize imports to ensure six million bags are sent to the strategic grain reserve.

“With respect to maize, we don’t like going that low, so we might allow inflow so that we can increase the stock because we feel six million bags are safer,” he said.

The government’s duty-free import window, the country’s fallback plan in case of depleted national stock, is set to lapse next month.

Apart from maize, the prices for rice, millet, sorghum, maize, potatoes and vegetables are also expected to hold stable or drop further up to the end of this year.

Ministry data shows the country had a total of 2.08 million bags of common beans by the beginning of September, with more expected from short rains harvest next month.

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