The Government is considering releasing maize into the market in order to stabilize the escalating prices, Agriculture and Irrigation Cabinet Secretary (CS) Mwangi Kiunjuri confirmed Thursday.
Kiunjuri said that the government was analysing and looking at the current price dynamics in the local market with a view to intervening at the right time.
“Due to the delayed onset of the 2019 long rains, the maize market prices in the country have started showing an upward trend ranging from Sh2, 200 to Sh2, 800 as at April 1, 2019 while the 2-kg maize flour packet is retailing at Sh80 to Sh85,” he said.
Giving the current food security situation and mitigation measures by the government, Kiunjuri said they were monitoring the situation and if it reaches unattainable levels, Government will release more maize into the market to stabilize the prices.
Food prices especially the maize flour has started escalating in the last one month because there is low supply in the market and farmers too are not delivering their maize to National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB).
The CS however, confirmed that the current national food security situation was stable except in pastoral and marginal agricultural counties.
He named Turkana, Garissa, Marsabit, Tana River and Isiolo as the ones most affected by the prevailing drought and have greatest need for food assistance.
Even as government monitors the situation, the CS asked farmers to plant the early maturing crops.
“I want to ask the county governments to support farmers through provision of farm inputs especially those whose crops have been affected by the poor rainfall conditions,” the CS said.
Kiunjuri noted that in the past few weeks, teams from the Ministry have been on the ground and have carried out a Rapid Food situation Assessment.
This assessment indicates that the country has an estimated current maize stock of 21,382,886 of 90-kilogramme bags. Small scale farmers are holding 13,040,716 bags of 90 kgs accounting for 61percent of the total maize stocks.
Traders are holding 3,353, 266 bags of 90kgs representing 16 percent, while millers and processors have in their custody 3 percent which is 680,588 bags of 90 kg and 4.3 million bags of 90kgs in NCPB depots across the country accounting for 20 percent of the total Stocks.
To encourage maize farmers still holding surplus maize stocks in their stores, Kiunjuri directed the NCPB to accept maize deliveries from vetted farmers with more than the limit of 400 bags that had earlier been set.
“I further direct NCPB to lift the previously set County supply limits to allow free delivery of surplus maize from all vetted farmers. This will enable vetted farmers in those counties that have exhausted their allocations to deliver any surplus maize to the NCPB to ease distribution to the needy counties across the country”, the CS said.
Farmers have delayed delivering their maize to the NCPB depots even after Government increased the purchase price of maize from Sh2,300 to Sh2, 500 after pressure by various quarters last December.
Currently, in various urban centres, for example, Kisumu and Nairobi prices have gone up to Sh3, 000 per bag while in Eldoret it is trading at between Sh2, 700 and Sh2, 800.
Kenya consumes 4.2 million bags of 90kgs per month in addition to other alternative uses such as livestock feeds and other industrial products but on average, it produces 40 million bags of 90 kg annually.
This is against an annual consumption of 52 million bags of 90kgs which creates a deficit of 12 million bags of 90kgs.
The deficit is however, normally met through cross border trade within East and Southern African Region.
Kiunjuri acknowledged that other food commodities such as rice, beans and sorghum were readily available in the local markets, though at steadily increasing prices and due to delayed rains leafy vegetables are also becoming scarce and attracting escalating prices.
The onset of the 2019 long rains has delayed and is exhibiting poor spatial and temporal distribution in the region.
This has led to poor crop germination as well as reported incidences of early fall army worm infestation.
By Wangari Ndirangu