Trends and opportunities in the production, processing and consumption of staple food crops in Kenya

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The information collected included size of firm, range of products, constraints in processing crisps, marketing of the product and the variety of potatoes processed. The potato crisps processing industry in Kenya is largely dominated by small scale processors who process crisps only as one of a diversity of other products. The industry is faced with several constraints including raw potato price fluctuations, scarcity and poor quality of potatoes, lack of facilities, skills and information on raw potato storage.

The industry relies heavily on one variety that is not always available for all the processors. This information is important for potato breeders and postharvest technologists to avail sufficient suitable potato cultivars for crisping. University of Nairobi A world-class university committed to scholarly excellence. Box , Kangemi Nairobi ; ooko. Bio Blog Links Publications. Publications Found 29 results. Trends and opportunities in the production, processing and consumption of staple foods crops in Kenya. Contribution of agriculture to achieving MDGs. Trends and opportunities in the production, processing and consumption of staple food crops in Kenya-Conference.

Hotel intercontinental, Nairobi; A case study of Nyandarua. In the counties visited by the Tegemeo Institute research team, cess rates have changed little if at all, from what was charged by local government authorities. What has changed is the number of collection points, which could be a basis of this perception. Traders aggregating maize pay cess in all the counties where they source the commodity as well as the county in which they are based.

For instance, a standardized bag of potatoes weighs 50 kg but traders use extended bags that weigh up to 70 kg, but still pay the same amount of KES 40 as cess levies. It is the main levy charged on maize and Irish potatoes, with trade licenses being the other form of taxation.

County revenue officials justified levying cess to support infrastructure development in the counties and other services including agriculture. Cess collection goes to the general treasury pool to be used together with other county funds and is allocated based on the priorities of counties. According to Nicholas Odhiambo, a researcher at Tegemeo Institute, Cess collection seems to benefit the destination markets more than the source county.


Odhiambo adds that the study suggests the restructuring of cess collection mechanisms at the county level. Adoption of electronic receipts which are already being implemented in Nakuru County can streamline and enforce compliance with cess collection procedures to increase revenue. In addition, counties should collaborate and introduce heavy fines on offenders at each county to discourage defaulting. Food security remains a key global agenda. In Africa, it is one of the greatest challenges as stifled availability and access to safe and nutritious food persist.

Here in our nation Kenya, agriculture remains the mainstay of the economy. In spite of this, our food systems face a myriad of challenges thus putting food security among the top national development agenda priorities. This is notably so and encouraging that food security is currently part of the governments big four agenda. Some of the challenges mainly experienced in the production of adequate food for citizens include extreme weather conditions coupled with rapid population growth. These have exacerbated the food insecurity status thereby increasing the level of malnutrition and hunger.

However, persistent food insecurity is largely attributed to low agricultural productivity hence indicating without a doubt that adequate measures need to be taken to address it. While it is agreeable that agricultural innovations are desirable to stimulate crop productivity, research shows that maize productivity in Kenya has stagnated overtime while output has been declining. This is against the ever increasing demand for the commodity thus transforming the nation into a net maize importer despite past efforts to promote adoption of modern farming technology.

Nonetheless, despite this, potential to boost agricultural productivity in Kenya exists. To achieve this however, farmers may have to rely more on technology to boost productivity. This can for instance be achieved by encouraging bundling of technologies, especially, complementary innovations such as improved seed and fertilizer. A three-year panel data of maize growing households from the mid-altitude regions of Central and Western Kenya, was used in the study. Eric Mukundi a Research Associate at Tegemeo Institute notes that further findings from the survey indicate that adoption of improved seed is positive and highly correlated with adoption of improved inorganic fertilizer thus suggesting that farmers consider the two technologies as complements most likely because improved varieties tend to be more responsive to fertilizer application unlike the local varieties.

Use of inorganic fertilizer was also noted to be instrumental in boosting both productivity and household food security even without improved seed. Highest productivity and household food security gains were however observed with the use of both improved seed and fertilizer thus indicating a complementarity of technology. Adoption rates for improved maize bundles were on average noted to be relatively high yet did not to translate to output gains, further notes Mr.

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This is a worrying trend given that there are over varieties of improved maize seeds in the Kenyan market currently. Mukundi, one of the notable reasons for this outcome could be pointed to the fact that fertilizer use is still low, besides farmers experiencing possible financial constraints and inadequate extension knowledge on the optimal bundles to use.


The Tegemeo study implores the need for policies that will stimulate development and adoption of practical complementary technologies to increase crop productivity in a sustainable manner. It recommends that providing information to farmers, providing access to finances especially for female households can improve use of complementary technologies, and consequently improve the food output. In addition, formation of strong partnerships is required to effectively spur the production of the right technology and consequent awareness creation of its existence and proper use to farmers. The national and county governments can no doubt play a crucial role in ensuring that such partnerships are established and fostered.

Besides with the devolved system of governance whereby agriculture is a devolved function, county governments can put aside funds to facilitate activities such as farmer education and fostering of both domestic and international public-private sector partnerships among others. At a 5-year national average production of 40 million kg bags, the loss is between 4. Kenya, therefore, loses an equivalent of over 1 month of consumption or an equivalent of a whole short rains harvest, estimated at an average of 5 million bags. Key questions on how Kenya can transition permanently to a food self-sufficient state continue to be asked by all stakeholders.

Ironically, over 50 years after independence and with a number of legislations, policies and strategies, Kenya is still a food deficit country. However it is encouraging to note that in the recent past, the government has prioritised food security; currently food security is among the top four priorities to be addressed over the coming five years. Maize remains the main staple crop for the country with a 5 year average production of 40 million bags against an estimated demand of 45—50 million bags annually.

Department of Food Science, Nutrition & Technology

Maize consumption food use only is estimated at 3. This means that if all the maize produced went to food use, the country would still need to import around 1 million bags to meet the maize demand for food. This is further complicated given the need for maize for other uses including industrial manufacturing, seed and animal feed, which account for 2, 1 and 2 percent respectively.

Post-harvest losses are estimated at 12 — 20 percent of the total national production. Together, these account for a loss of between 4. This loss would be enough to cover 1. Climate variability and change has also emerged strongly as a contributor to post-harvest losses. These conditions not only hinder proper grain drying but also provide conducive conditions for grain pests and disease build-up. Farmers without proper storage facilities majority of smallholders suffer huge losses as their produce is either rained on, lost to rot or severely infested by pests and diseases.

This is part of the reason why farmers sell their produce immediately after harvest when prices are rock bottom. Post-harvest losses are a major contributor to food inadequacy and must, therefore, be effectively addressed as a strategy to achieve the much desired state of food security. Use of several strategies and technologies along the value chain can be regarded as low-hanging fruits towards efforts to improve maize supply in the country.

Simple and practical technologies and innovations exist, which need to be disseminated and scaled up to minimize losses. For instance, at the farm level, farmers can reduce their losses through proper practices such as timely harvesting, proper drying, maintenance of storage hygiene, grain treatment and employment of better processing and transportation techniques.

Both the national and county governments need to also ensure better transport infrastructure; promote good on-farm and off-farm produce handling and management practices through extension service provision and warehouse receipt initiatives; promotion of use of effective storage and processing facilities to ensure minimal losses such as well calibrated and operational driers; and ensuring proper pest and disease control mechanisms in the production and marketing systems.

Appropriate policies to address maize market imperfections and risks associated with climate change and variability, including price uncertainty will also aid in creating right incentives that will promote provision and accessibility to affordable and scalable solutions to the problem of post-harvest losses. The use of robust evidence to help make policy decisions cannot be overemphasised.

Tegemeo Institute Blog

In the agriculture sector, attaining food security has been a top priority for the government. As such, the government has intervened with several policy interventions to ensure the country is food secure. These include subsidizing fertiliser and most recently, allowing importation of maize and providing a food subsidy. In responding to the need to have policies in the agricultural sector backed by evidence, Tegemeo Institute conducts studies that aim to generate this evidence for sharing with policy makers.

One such study is the food situation assessment of key staples and their costs of production that has been carried out annually since Maize is the most important staple food in the country, accounting for two-thirds of daily calorie intake for Kenyans. Hence, maize is synonymous with food. The Institute disseminated findings from the study to stakeholders, key among them the Kenyan government, at a breakfast meeting held on October 6 th Key recommendations were that the government will need to step in and introduce strategic measures such as securing maize imports early enough, to cushion Kenyans from hunger and avoid a repeat of what was witnessed early in the year when food prices soared.

Governments everywhere have the twin responsibility of ensuring that food prices are affordable for the majority of people, while guaranteeing good margins for producers. In practice, many opt to subsidise producers of staple foods. Subsidies usually have the effect of keeping the costs of production low enough to guarantee affordable prices for urban consumers. They may include subsidising the cost of inputs such as seed or fertiliser, or subsidising the output price to maintain an agreed minimum price.

The Kenyan government has from time to time applied input subsidies to reduce the cost of production. As a result the producer and consumer prices for maize — a major staple — have always been a subject of anxious debate in Kenya. Such a debate has been sparked once again by the recent price spike in food prices, including maize. Maize and milk consumer prices have soared to new heights, fuelling inflation which now stands at a six-year high.

The high and rising consumer prices are all the more worrying because prices of imported food commodities have largely been stable. The increases in prices , especially for maize, are not unique to Kenya. As a result of prolonged drought in large parts of the East African region, maize prices rose significantly in , especially between January and April.

But Kenya has the highest per capita maize consumption in the region and therefore suffers a greater burden due to the price hikes. The current drought situation in Kenya has begun debate about our preparedness as a country in responding to incidences of drought, and whether we ever learn from such incidences to inform our response strategies.

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The country has, in recent times faced droughts that continue to increase both in frequency and intensity. This coupled by increasing levels of poverty, has made it difficult for many households to cope with the incidences of drought. The drought has affected crop and livestock production and yields. The result of the prolonged drought is that many people are staring at famine, unless measures are taken to address the situation. Under normal rain conditions, annual maize production in Kenya is about 40 million bags while the annual maize demand is between 38 million and 51 million bags based on annual per capita consumption of between 72 and 98 kg.

The national maize yields have remained low, averaging about 1. Since , maize consumption has outstripped production and the country has to meet the deficit through imports, mainly from the neighboring countries. Maize production during the long rains fell short of the projected levels by about 5 million bags. The early harvest from South Rift is likely to be poor this year due to the prolonged drought and the maize lethal necrosis disease MLND.

The country needs to import at least 9 million bags to ensure maize availability up to July when the earliest harvests are expected. Cross-border maize inflows from neighboring countries have been minimal, largely because the neighboring countries have also been affected by the ongoing drought. Wholesale prices in most urban centers in the region are above Ksh 3, per kg bag, and are relatively higher than the world price of Ksh 1, It is unlikely that farmers are still holding large maize stocks. Maize flour price is for the first time since higher than wheat flour price.

For example, the price of a 2-kg packet of maize flour currently retail at Ksh on average, compared to Ksh for wheat flour on average. From the foregoing, it is evident that the country is staring at a looming maize shortage, hence famine, unless maize is imported to meet the deficit. How should the government respond to the current food situation? Is it already late? First, the government needs to immediately forestall the current high and escalating maize prices. The government recently removed maize import duty and VAT on bread and maize flour.

While these measures are welcome, these measures may be a little too late given that it takes days to deliver the imports.

Food consumption trends and drivers

Better surveillance and a faster response to warnings of a looming food shortage are needed to improve response and avoid situations of famine and starvation. A decision to import maize, when needed, must be made with good lead time.

Medium term responses will have to focus on increased production; building strategic food reserves; better extension services to improve productivity through enhanced farm management. Low investment in agriculture has been the main cause of low productivity. This has resulted in low production as well as low calorie intake. The level of calorie intake in recent years has shown a general decline from food staples though it is way above the minimum required intake. Caloric intake follows levels of production of staples in the country, increasing in output and decreasing when output declines.

Where output has been low, the deficit has been reduced through imports. The intake is however much lower than what is observed in the more developed countries. Caloric intake can be increased through increased consumption of other food staples such as plantain, rice and wheat products. Low intake could be attributed to low production in agriculture, which is a result of low budgetary allocation to the sector. Imports from the U. The increase in wheat demand is fueled by the considerable expansion in home and industrial baking.

In addition to the traditional bakeries, most leading supermarkets chains have opened baking units within their stores. Pricing and cost of transportation are a major consideration in wheat import decisions; imports into Kenya by registered millers are charged a 10 percent ad-valorem tariff; otherwise the EAC common external tariff of 35 percent applies. Imports from the US are mainly for food aid programs. Local production can barely cope with the increasing demand and importation has been inevitable. Demand for animal genetics is most vibrant among the more than , small-scale producers who own 80 percent of the dairy cattle.

United States is the largest supplier of bovine genetics in Kenya with a 42 percent market share. Other suppliers of animal genetics to the Kenyan markets include the Netherlands, Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom.