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Post-harvest losses to cost farmers Sh14.6b

Maize farmers are staring at Sh14.6 billion post-harvest losses, a situation likely to trigger high prices and general food insecurity, government and researchers warned yesterday.

Agriculture Principal Secretary Richard Lesiyampe confirmed in a phone interview that this year’s post-harvest losses are projected to reach between 10 per cent and 12 per cent of the total maize output.

This is lower than what Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reports on developing countries. “However, as part of mitigating the losses, government will facilitate farmers to deliver their maize to the National Cereals and Produce Board depots.

Farmers who do not have adequate drying capacity will be assisted to deliver and dry their maize to the government stores at no cost,” said Lesiyampe. Harvest is going on in North Rift and other parts of western Kenya region.

With the onset of short rains, the PS observed that growers are likely to struggle as they dry their maize thus leading to more losses. “We have a team of agriculture officers on the ground monitoring the situation mainly the storage facilities by farmers to dry maize,” he added.

Researchers with Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development said the ongoing short rains are likely to lead to high post-harvest losses levels and thus trigger high food prices and food insecurity early next year.

Last month Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett when releasing the food status report said the country is likely to record an annual 37.9 million bags. Based on the current prices of Sh3,200 per 90kg bag, 12 per cent of 37.9 million bags stand at 4.5 million bags of maize which if quantified into value the country stands to lose Sh14.6 billion.

Timothy Njagi, a senior research fellow with Tegemeo Institute said the expected loss will lead to stressed incomes to the farmers and high food prices which has characterised this year due to the impact of the prolonged drought.

“Farmers are likely to be interrupted when drying maize thus lead to more losses. Most of the farmers lack proper storage facilities contributing to harvested maize accumulating high moisture content which is the main cause of aflatoxins,” he said.

Dennis Otieno, a research fellow still with Tegemeo Institute warned that the country will lose maize also due to slow reaction, poor co-ordination and communication between State departments of agriculture at the county level.

This, he said, would predispose the country to increasing food insecurity. Tegemeo Institute attributes post-harvest losses for smallholder farmers to lack of resources, inadequate access to better processing facilities, weather, poor production practices or planning, bad transportation facilities and lack of infrastructure.

Premature harvesting, lack of access to good quality packaging materials and technology, inadequate market systems and increased post-harvest losses are other contributing factors. Farmers are also grappling with the fall army worm infestation that has reduced the potential area under maize by about 200,000ha and this may increase during the short season period.

Kenya Meteorological Department recently said that the country will receive enhanced rainfall during the October-November-December short rains, with November being the peak period.

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