WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — Kenya’s corn production remains constrained by underlying factors such as soil acidification due to continuous multi-year use of Diamonium Phosphate (DAP) fertilizer, lack of access to improved seeds, and the impact of maize lethal necrosis (MLN), the U.S Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) said in a March 15 report.

Kenya and the county governments in the corn-growing areas have initiated measures to increase yields including distribution of certified seeds and alternative fertilizers to farmers. Kenya is also implementing the second pilot phase of the Galana/Kulalu irrigation project in the North Coast region, and production on a further 500,000 hectares is expected in the market year 2016-17. In addition, Kenya has put up drying and storage facilities in the corn-growing areas to reduce postharvest losses and limit aflatoxin contamination. The USDA is supporting capacity building in post-harvest, aflatoxin, and MLN management under the Cochran and Borlaug Fellowship programs.

Corn remains the staple food crop in Kenya and consumption is expected to continue increasing despite the diversification of Kenyan diets. The livestock sector is also growing, and demand for corn in the manufacture of animal feeds is also expected to increase. The report forecasts that imports will remain steady in market year 2016-17 to offset the supply deficit. The imports will most likely be from the East African Community (EAC) countries due to the steep EAC common external tariff currently set at 50% ad-varolem. In addition, the import ban on genetically modified products that is still in place locks out imports from countries that produce genetically modified corn.

The report forecasts both area under wheat and production in Kenya to remain flat in 2016-17. In the market year 2015-16 a modest expansion in area, coupled by favorable weather conditions increased wheat production to 450,000 tonnes. Further increases in production are hindered by the widespread recycling of seed by farmers contributing to prevalence of the wheat stem rust disease. In addition, subdivision of family-owned farms into smaller units for inheritance purposes continues to hinder efficient wheat farming in Kenya.

Wheat consumption in Kenya is expected to continue increasing due to changing dietary patterns and a robust food service sector. A growing preference for wheat products is evident across the income groups in both rural and urban areas, with both commercial and home-baking becoming common. Demand for wheat products is also evident in the growth of pasta, confectionery and breakfast cereals sectors, while a limited amount of wheat is also used in the manufacture of animal feeds.

Kenya’s wheat production is less than one quarter of its annual demand, and the deficit is offset by imports. The bulk of the wheat imports are from Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Estonia, Germany, Poland, and Australia. The report forecasts a modest increase in wheat imports in the market year 2016-17. Wheat exports from Kenya are minimal, and attributable to limited cross-border trade with the neighboring countries.

Rice in Kenya is mainly grown in irrigation schemes that are managed by the state-owned National Irrigation Board (NIB). In addition to the irrigated Basmati rice, Kenya and county governments are promoting production New Rice for Africa (NERICA), an improved, rain-fed, upland rice variety. The NIB has also been rehabilitating and expanding the existing irrigation schemes, and the area under rice has increased gradually.

Rice consumption in Kenya continues to increase rapidly due to population growth, changing dietary preferences, higher incomes and urbanization. Consumption growth is estimated at 11% per year and the supply deficit is met by imports from Pakistan, Vietnam, Thailand, and India. There are also minimal imports from neighboring EAC countries.