KENYA – Kenya targets to produce 80 million bags of maize, the country’s staple, in 2024 as the country make strides to be self-reliant.
Mithika Linturi, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary revealed that farmers produced 61 million bags of maize in 2023, which must now be properly stored to assure food security.
Linturi was speaking during the opening of a new aflatoxin testing laboratory at the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) depot in North Imenti, Meru county.
Aflatoxins are recognized by the World Health Organization as highly toxic substances affecting grains, pose health risks to animals and humans, including cancer.
Linturi said the aflatoxin testing laboratory was aimed at ensuring the food people consume is safe. It is the first time such a facility was commissioned in Meru, a region Linturi noted had a high prevalence of cancer.
“Meru leads this country in cases of cancer. Scientific research has shown that there is some connection between cancer and consumption of contaminated food that has toxins like aflatoxin,” he said.
In optimism, Linturi said that the government has intensified distribution of fertilizer to farmers and targets 80 million bags of maize this year.
“We are now at another phase because we want to produce 80 million bags this year. We want to exceed our national consumption average of maize,” said the CS.
“As we continually distribute fertilizer in the North Rift and South Rift, we at the same time are able to support our farmers who are harvesting so that the crop they are harvesting now is properly dried to the right moisture levels,” he added.
Linturi was referring to the mobile driers that the government distributed across the nation to support farmers in drying their maize.
This follows that, last year, the government allocated KES2 billion (US$13.5M) for the acquisition of grain dryers to mitigate post-harvest losses during the harvesting season.
He noted that the cost of drying a 90-kg bag of maize was KES150, but had been reduced to KES 70 to incentivize the farmers.
He added that, the NCPB storage services only charge KES10 for storage which is used to run the depot.
“The minimal fee is just to keep the institution running because we cannot operate without power or fumigation,” he said.
Linturi and Tigania West MP John Mutunga also launched the construction of another cereals store at Kianjai.