The government has authorised the importation of four million bags of maize to avert a food crisis as it battles the spread of Covid-19.
Heavy rains in the past eight months resulted in floods, destroying crops.
The quarterly food security outlook released last month by the Famine Early Warning System Network showed that at least 17 counties — most of them in dry regions — will suffer shortages between February and May.
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya said the government would import two million bags of white maize for human consumption and another two million bags of yellow maize to be processed as animal feed.
The Cabinet secretary said there is enough food in Kenya to last several months. He added that traders hoarding food with the purpose of creating artificial shortages would be prosecuted.
The white and yellow maize will attract 14 and 10 per cent excise duty respectively in order to protect local farmers, the minister said.
“I would like to assure Kenyans that the government has put in place the necessary mechanisms to avert potential food shortages. The national and county governments are working together to ensure agricultural operations continue and that safe food is available, accessible and affordable,” he said.
Mr Munya urged Kenyans to avoid panic-buying “since this will create an unwarranted shock in the market, thus pushing prices up”.
He advised farmers and agriculture value chain actors to ensure there is enough food for everyone.
A slowdown in manufacturing in Europe and Asia sparked fears of fertiliser shortages in Kenya. Many European and Asian countries are on lockdown following the Covid-19 pandemic.
The government says it has addressed the concern and will facilitate farmers to get affordable fertiliser and extension services.
“In order to avoid shortages, it is important that we keep the supply chains going. The supply of staple commodities must function well. Farm, livestock and fish production inputs and produce need to be transported to where they are needed most,” Mr Munya said during a press briefing at Kilimo House in Nairobi on Monday.
He added that the inputs are available at the Kenya National Trading Corporation and the National Cereals and Produce Board stores.
The CS said although it is too early to determine the long-term impact of the pandemic, it is evident that the situation is taking a toll on the economy, especially the fresh produce industry.
He said it is critical to ensure food systems are uninterrupted and that they do not provide avenues for the spread of the disease.
The Cabinet secretary said his ministry would release guidelines to counties, food processors, transporters, farmers, input suppliers, veterinary practitioners and other value chain actors, “including mama mboga”.