KENYA – An assessment report by the Kenya Food Security Steering Group (KFSSG) and the Agriculture Ministry predicts that Kenya remains a maize-deficit country despite a 20% increase in production in the 2023 agricultural season.  

According to the report, the 2023 national maize production is expected to be 4.2 million tonnes (61 million bags), 15-20 percent above the five-year average.

In addition, most counties that were affected by a ravaging drought in 2022 have reported a slight improvement in food and nutrition security due to the March-April-May long rains and the October-November-December short rain season last year.

However, the report indicated that the country still requires about 356,000 metric tonnes of maize imports per year, whose prices are dictated by drivers at both local and regional levels.

“From October 2023, prices were on a downward trend in both urban and rural markets driven by available local long rains harvests from the high and medium rainfall areas and cross-border imports, which drove the prices to levels below 2023 prices. However, prices remain above the five-year averages,” KFSSG said.

The findings also show that staple food prices across the arid and semi-arid lands (Asals) remain high due to low opening stocks, high demand, high production and marketing costs, and the depreciation of the Kenya shilling.

The high prices, according to the experts, were also influenced by a slight drop in production in Tanzania and Uganda in 2023, which tightened supplies in the East Africa region, raising prices further.

Maize is a staple food in Kenya and, therefore, its price has a huge bearing on the cost of living of Kenyans.

The cereal is grown locally but local production does not meet demand which keeps growing each year.

Further, production has been hampered by drought and land fragmentation in recent years amid high costs of inputs, leading to diminished harvests.

However, the government is hopeful that various raft measures laid to increase local production will shield the country from huge import bills in the future.

A recent data by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) showed that maize prices dropped by 12.7 percent last year, driven by improved local harvests.

According to KNBS, prices of the staple food eased to an average of KES70.2 per kilogramme in December 2023, compared to KES 80.5 in the previous year.

The Ministry of Agriculture attributes the abundant harvests to good weather and the fertiliser subsidy programme by the government.

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