Does kenya need to buy maize from Tanzania, Mexico; who is fooling who?

The fears that Kenyan maize farmers had been having were confirmed on Thursday, a high ranking official from the Tanzanian government confirmed its intention to sell one million tonnes of the commodity to East Africa’s largest economy, Kenya.

According to reports, officials from the two countries will meet next week to iron out the details of this deal and the outcome may be in bad taste for Kenyan farmers.

Already reeling under unstable markets and now an unheard of maize shortage, maize farmers, may no longer be at ease in the coming months. This comes at a time when farmers are gearing up for harvest in the North Rift and Western regions.

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The Tanzanian deputy minister for agriculture said that the first consignment of about 20,000 tonnes would be sold to Kenya next month. He, however, remained tight-lipped on the agreed price.

Does this mean that Kenya’s agricultural sector is dead, buried in a deep grave? What has really failed us, is its leadership, agronomical practices and an overreliance on rain-fed agriculture? They say a nation that cannot feed its people is a failed state!

In May Agriculture CS put denied that there was a maize crisis. He had said the current volume would last the country up to June. This would later be followed with mixed reactions from State agencies as they openly differed on whether the reported shortage justified a tax waiver, to ship in the grains duty-free.

After immense political pressure from Members of Parliament, Kiunjuri scuttled the scheme last week. The plan was to import up to 18.8 million bags of maize from Tanzania, Uganda, and Mexico.

Officials at the country’s grain reserve think there is no shortage while their counterparts at the ministry are singing ‘shortage hymn’. So who is telling the truth? Or it is another maize scandal looming, just days after Arror-Kimwarer?

But what really is the genesis of ‘maize tribulations’ in this country? A few years ago, cane growers in the expansive sugar belt region faced the same test. They were overburdened by unfavourable regulation, improper zoning of the sugarcane regions and the infamous and faceless cartels who would import sugar from countries with comparatively higher production efficiency; lower production cost and competitively lower market prices. The quality did not matter. It still doesn’t

Professor Murenga Mwimali, coordinator and head of the maize program, Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) Project-Kenya, in an earlier interview, said maize farming needs to be supported with the necessary inputs and policies to remain attractive to most smallholder farmers.

“Our government needs good planning to minimize the aspect of ‘fire-brigade’ solutions that continue to be observed in reactionary policies in agriculture and food production,” said Mwimali, who is also a maize breeder.

As a country, our national conversation today should be on how to trace our steps back to regenerative farming methods that increase land productivity over time rather than short term production.

“We need to reassess our farming practices today, to build healthier farms for the future,” said Emmanuel Atamba, Route to Food ambassador. We share similar weather and almost share the same soil; but we have become a perennial food importer from maize, rice, onions, eggs, tomatoes the list is endless, a situation that has an overall impact on the country’s import bill.


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