East African MPs have expressed fears that a maize disease that is ravaging Kenya’s crop in the Rift Valley could spread to the rest of the region.
Members of the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) on Wednesday adopted a report calling for East African Community (EAC) stakeholders to liaise with Kenyan authorities in containing the disease.
“The committee was concerned that the outbreak could overspread to the whole region,” reads the report by Eala’s agriculture committee.
In addition, the report calls for countries in the region to increase their investments in agriculture by allocating 10 per cent of national budgets to the sector as required by the Maputo Protocol.
Legislators adopted the report unanimously and called for Eala to partner with research institutes to combat the disease.
Kenya’s maize crop in the South Rift, considered part of Kenya’s grain basket, is currently threatened by the maize lethal necrosis disease which has puzzled scientists in the country.
First reported in September last year, the disease has affected more than 10,000 hectares of maize, wiping out 30 to 100 per cent of the crop.
Rules on food trade
According to experts, all varieties of maize are vulnerable to the virus, raising fears that Kenya may be faced with an acute food shortage.
Eala members further urged governments in the Community to relax rules on food trade, saying that liberal markets would contribute to food security should the situation in Kenya worsen.
“During periods of drought and other hardships, partner states need to encourage trade in the region. They should not ban sale of food to neighbouring markets,” Mr Christophe Bazivamo of Rwanda said.
Last year, Tanzania banned maize exports at a time Kenya was facing shortages, citing a need to stem domestic inflation.
Although the ban was lifted later in the year, it had adverse effects on maize prices in Kenya.
A June 2012 report by Kenya’s East African Community ministry on non-tariff barriers also notes that Tanzania has instituted a quota on the amount of cereals Kenyans can buy from the country.
The EAC legislators also adopted a report by the accounting committee calling for expansion of the scope of EAC audits to include environmental and management audits.