Favourable Weather Fails to Improve Kenya’s Food Security
Kenya remains among 36 nations worldwide that would require external assistance to bridge deficits in food production even as global prices of wheat soared to record highs.
A latest outlook report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said though the country has shown signs of favourable prospects over main growing due to good rains, deficits are still bound to occur due to drought conditions in selected parts.
“In Kenya, harvesting of the 2007 long-rains season maize started in the maize growing areas of Nyanza and parts of Western Provinces. The maize crop, for harvest from October, in the main growing province of the Rift Valley is reported to be in good condition,” the organisation said in an outlook for the month of September.
Official data places the forecast above average with an expected maize output of about 2.56 million tonnes. Maize is the main staple food in the country. Following these favourable prospects both in Kenya and Tanzania, the regional prices of the commodity has remained stable this year.
Prospects are generally favourable due to good rains. The long rains cropping season normally accounts for 80 per cent of total annual food production. The official forecast indicates a well above average 2007 long-season maize output of about 2.56 million tonnes.
In Tanzania, maize harvesting is almost completed in maize growing areas and the overall food supply situation is adequate following good harvests and improved pastures.
Cereal prices were generally stable in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania but persistently high in Ethiopia.
According to the Eastern Africa Grain Council (EAGC), all three countries have surplus marketable maize. However, according to data from the Regional Agricultural Trade Intelligence Network (RATIN), average wholesale maize prices in Tanzania rose sharply in August and September, to more than US$170 per tonne, after having remained fairly stable at US$ 120 per tonne for most of the year.
This compares compares to US$143 per tonne and US$146 per tonne for the same period in 2006 and 2005 respectively.
International wheat prices have increased sharply since June, hitting record highs in September in response to tightening world supplies, historically low levels of stocks and sustained demand, according to FAO’s latest reports.
The combination of higher export prices and soaring freight rates is pushing up domestic prices of bread and other basic food in importing developing countries, hitting the group of Low-Income Food-Deficit countries (LIFDCs) particularly hard and causing social unrest in some areas, the report said.
The total cereal import bill of the LIFDCs is forecast to increase considerably for the second consecutive year, reaching an all-time high of US$28 billion in 2007/08, up roughly 14 per cent from last year’s already high level.
Overall, developing countries are likely to spend a record US$52 billion on cereal imports, according to the report.
Maize prices are also well above last year’s levels, despite the bumper crop materializing this year, mainly reflecting continued strong demand from the biofuel industry, the report said.
In the United States, the world’s largest producer of maize, output is forecast to increase 26 per cent from 2006 to an all-time high.