A food crisis is looming in the country with this season’s maize harvest expected to be 20 per cent less than the projected 40 million bags due to erratic rainfall coupled with Fall Armyworm invasion in the grain baskets.
The drought experienced in parts of North Rift mid this year resulted in more than 40,000 acres of maize crop in Uasin Gishu County alone withering.
This translates to a total loss of about 800,000 bags of maize. Normally, an acre produces at least 20 bags.
Uasin Gishu County executive in charge of agriculture, Dr Cyril Cheruiyot, said most of the affected crops were those in tasselling stages of growth. “The last time a drought of that magnitude was experienced in this region was in 1984. At least we have started receiving rain, meaning the entire crop is not affected,” he said.
He said many farmers in the region had opted for maize farming this season because the returns were higher than those of wheat. “We are advising our farmers to embrace crop insurance to mitigate against effects of climate change in future,” he said.
According to Dr Cheruiyot, the county got 4.2 million bags of maize last year from 90,000 acres but there are fears of a decline this season.
With 40,000 acres already withering due to drought and another 25,000 being destroyed by worms, the county stands to lose 65,000 acres, translating to a shortfall of about 1.3 million bags.
The ministry has said 19 counties in the country were currently food insecure with many households grappling with an acute food shortage and livestock perishing due to lack of water and pasture.
However, in Trans Nzoia authorities have allayed fears of a drop in yields in the county despite the worm invasion in the region.
The county’s agriculture chief officer Mary Nzomo said the region is expected to harvest 4.8 million bags of maize this year from a projected harvest of 5.3 million bags.
Ms Nzomo said the worm invasion will account for about nine per cent loss, which is an equivalent of 500,000 bags of maize.
According to her, this will not affect the county’s food stability.
“The county’s requirement per harvest season is one million bags of maize from 106,000 acres of land that is normally put under maize,” said the official.
The county still has a surplus of maize from last year’s harvest of 4.7 million bags which will be offloaded to food deficit areas mostly targeting farmers who lost their entire crop.
Some farmers in parts of South Rift have started harvesting with the produce expected to reach the local market by October.
Maize growers have called on the government to end the import duty waiver on maize as local suppliers are importing.
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett said that when the window of importation comes to an end, the government will start rationing the amount of maize supply to millers to prevent hoarding.