April 7, 2020


Kenya's food crisis looms amid declining corn stocks



The COVID-19 pandemic could bring Kenyans into a food crisis if the current corn stocks, which are only sufficient for two months, are not replenished.


According to investigations by the Sunday Standard, the country's stock could run out by end of May given that majority of Kenyans are at home and consuming more food.


Last year, Kenya had a production of 43 million bags of corn during the long and short rains, which according to experts is one of the highest harvests, the best in the recent past.


Given the per capita consumption of 100 kg per person per year according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), the country requires about 51 million bags to be food sufficient. This means there was a shortfall of eight million bags.


The deficit could begin from May when corn from the short rain begins to diminish, setting in a period of shortage.


Corn is a staple crop for the country and according to Tegemeo Institute, there has been an average production of 40 million bags in the last five years against an estimated demand of 51 million bags annually. The KNBS recent census report indicated the country had a population of 49 million people and with a 100 kg per capita, meaning Kenyans consume over 49 million bags a year.


This is only corn consumption for food only, meaning if all the corn produced went to food use, the country would still need to import.


The Tegemeo Institute said the situation is further complicated given the need for corn for other uses including industrial manufacturing, seed and animal feed, which account for 2%, 1% and 2%, respectively.


Grant Brooke, a former researcher in Kenya and founder Twiga, argued that if no action is taken, the country could easily see the current health crisis turn into a food security crisis, and put at risk far more lives than the disease itself.


"Goals here should be to craft a policy that does not handicap food access," said Brooke.


The possible food situation could be complicated by restricted movement of people and goods across the globe that could hinder supply of imported corn on time.


In the past, millers have imported corn from Brazil, Mexico and South African countries of Malawi and Zambia.


However, given the lockdown being experienced by most of these countries, some could limit the amount of food they would like to import.


If the government does not open up the importation process early enough, the situation could spiral into a crisis soon.


According to a report dubbed 'Estimated Maize', production for March 2020, the monthly consumption is 4.25 million bags while total local production is 43.3 million bags.