by Peter Mutai
NAIROBI, Oct. 5 (Xinhua) -- Kenya's maize production in 2017 is expected to be lower than 2016 due to prolonged dry spell being experienced across the East African nation, researchers said on Thursday.
Researchers from the Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policies and Development, an agricultural think tank, called on the government to start planning importation of maize for use before the 2018 harvest in August.
Kevin Onyango, a researcher at the institute, said the government will have to import maize for consumption from May following late onset of rain and prolonged drought this year.
"Even though the food situation has improved in parts of the country, 2017 production is expected to be lower than 2016 harvest by an estimated 20 percent," Onyango said in Nairobi while presenting a food situation assessment and prospects for 2017/2018.
He revealed that the situation has been worsened by attack and infestation by fall armyworms, incidences of maize smut disease and the maize lethal necrosis disease.
Onyango noted that the food situation in most pastoral and agro-pastoral areas are worse as over 3.5 million people are acutely food insecure and in need of humanitarian support.
"Rain fed production system is uncertain and overwhelmed hence the need to efficiently produce maize and other staples under irrigation," he added.
Tim Njagi, a senior researcher at the institute, observed that to reduce costs and improve competitiveness, the government must embark on improving productivity, lower cost of input and also introduce fertilizer cost reduction program.
He noted that despite the government fast tracking an ambitious 200-million-U.S.-dollar fertilizer subsidy program, productivity of maize per acre has decreased drastically over the years.
"Declining soil fertility, planting of low-quality seeds and poor distribution of rainfall have affected maize production rate per acre over the years," he said.
The researcher asked the government to revamp extension systems, called for constant surveillance and concerted efforts to identify and control pests and diseases.
Kenya's Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries estimates post-harvest loses to the tune of between 10-12 percent every year. This is due to poor storage facilities as well as early harvesting.
The study that was commissioned to establish the general food situation in the country with emphasis on maize, rice, wheat, potatoes and other major staples, called on the government to promote production and access of other food crops besides maize. Enditem