NAIROBI, Jul 26 – Kenya will have a favorable maize availability despite a new disease that has affected yields in some areas easing concerns of a new round of high food prices in the country, new update by Famine Early Warning Network (FEWS) indicates.
Maize is the country’s staple food used to prepare variety of local dishes making it highly vulnerable to supply and demand forces.
Drop in maize production often results into expensive imports that push the of food high resulting in higher inflation.The overall national maize output is expected to be lower by up to 25 per cent according to Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture because of relatively poor availability of inputs during planting, maize lethal necrosis disease (MLND) outbreaks, effects of flash floods in April and May, and the possibility of heightened pre- and post-harvest losses due to the enhanced short rains. “The maize harvest prospects are generally good in the main growing areas where output is expected to be near normal,” said FEWS in an update released on Wednesday.
The long rains maize production that is due for harvest accounts for about 85 percent of annual production at the national level. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, an
estimated 1.3 million hectares has been put to maize production during the 2012 long rains season.”Although planting delayed by a month due to the late onset of the rains,
the crop condition is generally good in the main growing areas of the Rift Valley, Nyanza, and Western Provinces,” noted FEWS. But the crop condition is different in the
southeastern and coastal lowlands where the performance of the long rains maize crop is mixed, very poor in the marginal mixed farming zones and relatively better in the high altitude mixed farming zones.
Farming households situated in the southern Rift Valley, Nyanza, and parts of Western Provinces are expected to start harvesting the long rains maize crop from August
onwards. Harvesting will be delayed by a month and the new crop is expected to enter the market from mid-August onwards. In the major growing areas of central Rift Valley,
harvesting is also expected to be delayed by nearly a month, starting from late October to November. Cross border maize trade has ensured constant supply that has helped
stabilize prices, according to data from the Ministry of Agriculture. “The increase in cross-border inflows of maize, particularly along the Kenya and Tanzania border in May
when compared to the first four months of the year, have significantly increased domestic supplies and slowed the recently escalating maize prices, ” notes FEWS update.
About 137,000 metric tons of maize entered Kenya across the Tanzania and Uganda borders in May. As a result, wholesale prices of maize declined by five to 15 percent in
Mombasa, Kisumu, Chwele, Meru, and Eldoret between the end of May and end of June. Wholesale maize prices have further declined by up to five percent in Nairobi,
Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru, Eldoret, and Malindi between the end of June and mid-July 2012.Similarly, retail maize prices also either remained the same or declined across the
pastoral areas and the southeastern and coastal lowlands between May and June.
The long rains maize crop harvests are expected to reach the market in November. As a result, maize prices will start to decline in the main growing areas. However, the
declining prices are unlikely to be significantly transmitted to the pastoral areas as transport costs are likely to remain above average due to impassable roads resulting from
the enhanced rains. FEWS update notes that the enhanced market supply coupled with the recently reduced fuel prices following the price reduction by the Energy Regulatory
Commission are likely to push maize prices down. This will be particularly true in the surplus-producing areas and in the well integrated wholesale markets that are situated in key urban centers.
According to FEWS, decline in maize prices is expected to be gradual through December. Significant declines in maize prices are likely to occur from January onwards when
farmers sell a significant part of their harvest in order to purchase farm inputs for the new season or to pay school fees. “The prevailing high maize price being offered by the
National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) is another factor likely to keep prices above average in the short to medium term,” notes the update.