By Judith Akolo
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett says high poverty levels and infrastructure constraints are inhibiting access to food adding that so far 1.3 million people in 23 counties are experiencing food shortage.
Speaking at his Kilimo House office, the Agriculture Cabinet Secretary said poor rains in the Arid and Semi Arid Lands coupled by poor agricultural practices carried out by mainly small holder farmers have aggravated the food shortage situation in the country.
“However, I wish to assure Kenyans that he overall food security situation in the country is stable for now,” said Bett and added, “High poverty levels, low purchasing power and poor infrastructure between the producer areas and the demand areas is compounding the food situation in the country.”
Bett noted that the government will endeavor to maintain the cost of a 2kg packet of maize flour at Kshs. 100 in order to ensure affordability among a majority of Kenyans.
Currently maize stocks in the country stand at 9.5 million bags while the maize consumption in Kenya is 3.2 million bags per month with annual consumption at 40 million bags.
The strategic grain reserves have fallen to 731,000 bags of maize, with a cash equivalent to purchase 2 million bags.
Bett said the government intends to purchase maize from main production areas at Ksh 2,300 per 90 kilogram bag to boost the strategic grain reserves.
Other stocks in the strategic grain reserves include; 1.2 million bags of beans, 2.3 million bags of wheat and 1 million bags of rice.
At the same time a livestock offtake program is set to begin in livestock keeping areas. According to Bett these areas were impacted negatively on crop production, pasture, water and livestock conditions.
“As a result most of the 23 ASALs including Kilifi, Kwale, Lamu and Tana River are experiencing a drought,” said Bett and added, “Other areas are Makueni, Kitui, Meru, Samburu and Kajiado.”
The Ministry has also put in place measures to import sufficient stocks of fertilizer in readiness for planting during the long rains season next year.
Bett said poor crop husbandry in maize producing areas, uncontrolled fragmentation of land and uneconomic units of land which do not allow for mechanization have contributed to the increasing cost of maize production at the household level a situation he said is compounded by climate change.
Head of Forecasting at the Kenya Meteorological Service Samuel Mwangi says the food situation has been worsened due to poor rains that were experienced in May, June and July which is the planting season in the Coastal areas of Kilifi County, Kwale, Tana River, and the former north eastern which is experiencing a stress in pasture for livestock.