Written by Joseph Amunya Otieno
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The country is likely to experience a deficit of about 10 million bags of dried maize up from the earlier projected 4 million this year.
According to Kenya National Federation of Agricultural Producers (KENFAP) Lugari branch Chairperson Mr. Joseph Ngaah, diseases that affected maize in several parts of the country and the ongoing heavy rains in Western and Rift Valley regions have heavily contributed to poor yields on most farms.
Speaking to West FM Wednesday, Ngaah said that although the ministry of agriculture had early this year projected a 4 million bag deficit of dried maize after harvest the figure might be higher.
Ngaah regretted that most of the fertilizers used in planting and topdressing maize had been drained away by rain water occasioned by heavy rains.
He blamed the situation for adversely affecting growth of the crop, especially in maize producing zones in Rift Valley and Western provinces.
The official has appealed to farmers to prepare in advance and utilize the season of shorter rains to plant other crops such as potatoes in order to avoid plunging the country into the problem of food insecurity.
Mr. Ngaah has at the same time urged the government to buy beans directly from farmers through the National Cereals and Produce Boards (NCPB) in order to bar middlemen from exploiting them.
According to Xinhua, the ministry of Agriculture in its April food security report it was noted that Kenya was experiencing maize shortage. During the period, the country's national maize stocks decreased to 15.9 million bags from 18.6 million bags the previous month.
The ministry attributed the decrease in stocks to increased local consumption. To boost stocks and stem rising prices, Kenya doubled its maize imports from neighboring countries mainly Uganda and Tanzania.
The report indicated that Kenya imported 339,323 bags of maize in April, up from 148,860 bags the previous month.
Analysts note Kenya's maize crisis will worsen in the coming months due to viral diseases that have ravaged crops in various parts of the nation.
The diseases have been identified as Maize Chlorotic Mottle Virus and Sugarcane Mosaic Virus. They lead to gradual withering of maize crops.
The ministry of agriculture said in May that maize legal necrosis (MLN), a disease which has affected some 300,000 maize farmers mainly in the country's food basket Rift Valley province, could adversely affect harvest of the staple nationally if it is allowed to spread.
The ministry reported that some 15,732 hectares of maize had been affected by the disease and that in severely affected fields total crop loss was anticipated.
Subsequently, the USAID funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) said the excess rain water during the harvesting season may lead to significant pre- and post-harvest maize crop losses in the key growing areas. The 2012 long rains were delayed by nearly a month.
"They were also at a depressed volume, erratic, and unevenly distributed across the northern, northeastern, and southeastern pastoral areas. The season was shortened as the rains ended two to five weeks earlier than usual in late April and early May instead of late May to early June," it said.
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