KENYA – Kenya’s wheat and corn production is expected to increase in 2023/24 market year as farmers respond to high crop prices by planting more, according to a report from the Foreign Agricultural Service of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Corn production is estimated at 3.2 million tonnes, up from a previous estimate of 2.9 million tonnes in 2022-23.

The country will however be forced to continue relying on imports as consumption is expected to recover to 3.9 million tonnes, exceeding production by 0.6 million tonnes.

USDA anticipates MY 2023/24 prices will remain high as low domestic and regional supplies keep prices above historical levels.

Prices in MY 2022/23 reached a record high of US$533/MT due to production shortfalls caused by drought, high fertilizer prices, and insufficient regional imports to stabilize prices.

Average MY 2022/23 prices nearly doubled to US$420/MT from US$272/MT the year before, according to USDA.

According to local seed vendors and other industry sources, these high prices are encouraging Kenya farmers to switch from crops such as sugarcane to maize. Post forecasts that the area harvested will increase by 100,000 hectares.

According to the report, Kenya’s feed and residual consumption is estimated to remain at 200,000 MT as corn prices will likely remain high and Kenya’s feed sector continues to face competition from human consumption

USDA forecasts MY 2023/24 stocks will remain below historical levels at 136,000 MT as corn supplies tighten.

To bridge the gap between demand and local production, USDA forecasts that MY 2023/24 imports will reach 750,000 MT, unchanged from MY 2022/23.

Increased leasing of land to boost wheat production

On the other hand, Wheat production in 2023-24 is estimated to increase to 310,000MT from 275,000 MT in MY 2022-23 mostly because of an increase in harvested area.

According to USDA, new farmers are leasing land in the productive areas in Narok County, Kenya’s wheat production zone, and planting wheat to take advantage of high prices.

In February 2023, wheat prices stood at US$462 per MT compared to US$417 per MT during the same month in 2022.

Consumption is however expected to remain low at 1.94 million MT despite an expansion of restaurants and bakeries in the country’s capital.

USDA anticipates wheat production will be less affected by high fertilizer prices as wheat farmers tend to be larger-scale and better positioned to absorb high input prices than most corn producer

In addition, it is anticipated that wheat imports in MY 2023/24 will remain unchanged at 1.6 million MT as prevailing conditions in MY 2022/23 are likely to continue

Thiba Dam gives hope in rice production

Rice production also is expected to increase to 130,000 tonnes due to an expansion in the planted area following the commissioning of the Thiba Dam in October 2022.

The dam will increase the water available for rice cultivation in the Mwea Irrigation Scheme, Kenya’s primary rice growing area.

Following increased available water, Sources indicate that a second cropping may be gradually introduced in the scheme, leading to increased production, USDA has stated.

MY 2022/23 rice imports are expected to reach a record high of 700,000 MT due to the temporary removal of tariffs and high local demand for affordable food staples

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