Looming crisis as Kenya’s grain production set to fall by 6pc


Looming crisis as Kenya’s grain production set to fall by 6pc

Poor cereal harvest expected this year due to failed rains, says food agency

Kenya’s grain production is set to fall by six per cent as effects of a prolonged drought become more apparent, data from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reviewed by Nation Newsplex shows.

This year, Kenya is expected to produce 3.8 million tonnes of cereals, which are made up of 500,000 tonnes of wheat, and 3.3 million tonnes of coarse cereals — maize, millet, sorghum and barley. That will be a drop from the four million tonnes of cereals produced in 2016.

However, global production is set to increase by one per cent to reach 2.6 billion tonnes, a world record and an increase of 6.8 million tonnes (0.3 per cent) over 2016 levels.

While overall production in Africa is projected to jump by 11 per cent, the harvest is predicted to decrease in East Africa by 0.2 per cent and West Africa by 0.1 per cent.

Harvests of cereals are expected to drop by eight per cent in Madagascar, six per cent in Sudan and Kenya, three per cent in Tanzania, one per cent in Chad, and less than one per cent in Mali, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Niger.

This data is contained in the third quarterly Crop Prospects and Food Situation Report that FAO published in September.

Of the 24 main cereal growing countries in Africa under review, FAO predicts that nine, of them, including Kenya, will reap a smaller harvest than they did in the previous season.

According to FAO, Kenya’s harvest is expected to drop mainly because of unfavourable weather characterised by consecutive poor rainy seasons.

WORM INVASION

According to the 2017 Economic Survey, Kenya produced 37.1 million 90kg bags of maize in 2016, 117,000 tonnes of sorghum and 54,000 tonnes of millet. It also produced 101,500 tonnes of rice paddy.

The Ministry of Agriculture projects that the country will produce 37.9 million bags of maize by the end of this year (3.4 million tonnes less than the 40 million bags predicted at the beginning of this year). Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett said last week that the fall armyworm invasion, late onset of rains and dry spells, and the reduction of the area under maize by 5.1 per cent, contributed to the reduced harvest.

According to FAO, production in Southern Africa is forecast to increase by about 51.2 per cent over the previous year, while in North Africa, production is forecast to increase by 22.4 per cent over.

Cereals are important for food security because they constitute staple foods in most diets around the world. According to FAO, there were 815 million people chronically malnourished people worldwide last year, a five per cent increase from 777 million in 2015.

In Africa, cereal production is dominated by four countries. Nigeria is expected to produce 24.3 million tonnes, while Ethiopia, Egypt and South Africa, are forecast to produce 23.3 million, 23.1 million and 19.3 million tonnes respectively. The next biggest producer in East Africa is Tanzania, which is expected to produce 10 million tonnes of cereals this year.

Nearly four fifths (78 per cent) of Nigeria’s forecast production is coarse grain (largely maize), while rice caters for the other 22 per cent. In Ethiopia, maize accounts for 81 per cent of all the forecast cereal production, while wheat accounts for 18 per cent of all the cereals grown.

In South Africa, maize, or coarse grains constitute 92 per cent of cereal production while the other eight per cent consists of wheat. In Kenya, 87 per cent of expected production is coarse grain, while 13 per cent is wheat.

Egypt has a more even distribution in the production of cereals, with wheat, coarse grains and rice accounting for 38 per cent, 35 per cent and 28 per cent respectively.

The top cereal producers in Africa have comparatively high production per unit area of land, which is known as yield, relative to Kenya.

FOOD AID

For example in 2014, Egypt, which depends entirely on irrigation, had a yield of 77,556 tonnes per hectare of maize, which is nearly five times Kenya’s yield of 16,602 tonnes per hectare of maize the same year. Kenya’s yield ranked 23rd for all the African countries that FAO compared in 2014, the most recent year of data available.

The yield has remained between 15,000 to 20,000 tonnes per hectare from 2002 to 2014.

According to FAO, 29 countries in Africa require external assistance for food, which means food aid must be imported to avert starvation. FAO has placed the countries into three broad categories that are not mutually exclusive: exceptional shortfall in food supplies, widespread lack of access and severe localised food insecurity.

Only the Central African Republic has an exceptional shortfall in food supplies. There are 600,000 internally displaced people and 1.1 million people (30 per cent of the population) in the country which has been in a state of civil war since 2012.

Another nine countries have widespread lack of access to food supplies: Burundi, Chad, DRC, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Niger, Nigeria and South Sudan. Civil insecurity contributed to the shortage in five countries (Burundi, Chad, Niger, Nigeria and South Sudan), followed by population displacement in four (Chad, DRC, Niger, Nigeria).

Another 19 countries have severe localised food insecurity. This means that while specific parts of the country are food insecure, most of the country has access to food.

They include Kenya, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo, Guinea, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

LACK OF ACCESS

Oxfam’s latest report dated October 5 says 3.4 million Kenyans are in need of urgent assistance. The Kenyan Government declared the drought a national disaster in February, following reduced rainfall.

Unlike countries with widespread lack of access, localised food insecurity is associated with a difference test of factors.

For example, refugees putting strain on host communities contributed in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo, Liberia and Mauritania, while unfavourable weather conditions were a factor in Kenya, Madagascar, Somalia, Malawi, Swaziland, Mozambique and Sierra Leone.