Food shortage could worsen health crisis

Tuesday, April 28th, 2020 00:00 |
Maize farming. Photo/Courtesy

As Kenya puts is best foot forward in the battle against Covid-19 pandemic, one of the direct consequences facing the country is food insecurity.

Besides reports that grain stores at the National Cereals and Produce Board are depleted, the disruption of the distribution chain by measures to curb the spread of the disease could toss the country into a serious food crisis.

Ironically, maize, the staple food for majority of Kenyans, is rotting in the fields waiting for trucks that never arrive.

This is compounded by the rains which are currently pounding most parts of the country making most areas inaccessible.

Raging floods have also destroyed hundreds of acres of land under the crop.

While domestic crops go to waste, the imports the region relies on have also dried up as major suppliers have reduced or even banned food exports to make sure their citizens have enough food to cope with the pandemic.

Apart from maize, it is estimated that if imports don’t pick up, East Africa alone could face a shortfall of 50,000-60,000 tonnes of rice by the end of the month because of a disrupted supply chain.

Mass movement of goods across borders is getting even more difficult by the day. There is no clarity on what is essential transportation.

Tomato farming.

And even before the coronavirus pandemic, locusts had already hit a significant number counties in Kenya and neighbouring countries threatening an already fragile food ecosystem.

But when Covid-19 landed, the locusts menace was relegated to the back-burner where it continued to ravage farms.  

It is now important for the State to do a 360 degree to ensure that while it galvanises the war on coronavirus, no other threat, especially in the form of food shortage rears its ugly head to complicate an already trying time for citizens.

The Agriculture ministry said earlier this month that the government does not intend to buy maize from local farmers, but this could be catastrophic in the face of lockdown and slowed economic activities.

It will give a free reign to insidious cartel to interfere with the forces of supply and demand to drive up commodity prices. 

And even as it seeks ways to stop a crippling food shortage through imports, the process must be transparent and devoid of the dirty deals that mired it in the past. 

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