Delayed poor long rains to worsen Kenya’s food security – FAO
By Vera Shawiza / July 18, 2017
Kenya’s food security is expected to worsen after most areas received less than half of their normal seasonal rainfall says a food security report released last week.
“In high potential cropping areas of the southwestern “maize basket”, above-average rainfall in May offset the early season dryness in Nandi and Kericho counties, while in Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu and Nakuru counties accumulated rainfall between March and mid-June remained between 15 and 45 percent below average,” according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Global information and Early Warning System on Food and Agriculture (GIEWS) report.
The report however, says in southwestern Kenya, the “long-rains” season normally extends until August and, with rainfall forecasts pointing to generally favourable rains for the remainder of the rainy season, a full recovery of water-stressed crops is still possible.
Counties in the coastal region Kwale, Kilifi and Lamu counties, the rainy season was not favourable to them as it caused flooding leading to destruction and displacement of people. “As the rainy season ended in mid-June in these areas outside the “grain basket”, damage to crops, to be harvested from July, is irreversible and production prospects are unfavourable,” reads part of the report. “The forecast below-average harvests will potentially result in a third consecutive reduced output in these areas, after the sharply-reduced 2016/17 “short-rains” harvest, gathered last February, and the below-average 2016 “long-rains” harvest”
Army worm infestation
The GIEWS report says, “ Fall army worm infestations affecting maize and wheat crops pest has so far affected about 200 000 hectares of crops.”
Earlier, FEWS Net had warned that if the army worm infestations is not managed, was likely to exacerbate food insecurity.
“The pest has affected some of the off-season crops, and also poses a threat to the long rains crops that are still at early stages of development,” FEWS Net said.
“This is the third season in a row that families have had to endure failed rains – they are simply running out of ways to cope, Support is needed now before the situation rapidly deteriorates further ” said FAO’s Director of Emergencies Dominique Burgeon.
For instance, in Turkana, Marsabit and Mandera counties the goats-to-maize terms of trade declined over the last 12 months by 25-35 percent.
However, assumptions from FEWS NET are that, “Staple grain supplies are expected to continue tightening. To bridge the country’s grain deficits, there is likely to be an increase in grain imports from within and outside East Africa’s borders. The Government of Kenya is likely to continue offering tax relief to private sector companies to import additional grain.”
The national food security situation is set to improve slightly from June with the availability of the Msimu harvest from Tanzania, Government of Kenya sanctioned international imports, and flows of government-subsidized maize flour that will likely moderate further staple food price increases.
Harvests from Uganda will also be available from August, marginally increasing the supply and stabilizing prices, especially in western areas of Kenya. Throughout the scenario period, maize prices are expected to follow seasonal trends, albeit at elevated levels of 30 – 50 percent above average.
However, the Kenyan government through the Central Bank of Kenya note that the state of food security across the country is stable compared to early this year. This is due to the short rains that were experienced in May and June therefore leading to a decline in commodity prices that had hard-hit pockets of most households.
Significant food commodities whose prices came down included potatoes, onions, Sukuma Wiki, cabbages, tomatoes, maize flour and milk.