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Improved food supply expected in EA as experts forecast reliable rains

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By STEVE MBOGO Special Correspondent

Posted  Saturday, January 12  2013 at  19:20

In Summary

  • Experts say food security outlook even in the most food insecure countries like Kenya indicate above average supply.
  • Tanzania and Kenya, however, remain vulnerable especially if rains fail in the next planting season.
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Better rainfall and above average cereals harvests will spare East Africa food-induced inflation in the first half of 2013.

Experts say food security outlook even in the most food insecure countries like Kenya indicate above average supply.

Tanzania and Kenya, however, remain vulnerable especially if rains fail in the next planting season. Elections in Kenya also pose a risk as they could disrupt food distribution system, while returning Burundi refugees from Tanzania may also strain available food supplies.

“Unless there is a catastrophe, Kenya will be food secure throughout the 2013 calendar year,” said Kenya Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Romano Kiome in an interview. He said there is unlikely to be any cereals imports in the rest of the year.

He said the rains have been adequate and they are projected to remain so while strategic food reserves in form of grain and cash to cater for emergency situation are available.

He did not however disclose the amount of grains or money set aside for emergency food response.

Food shortage in Kenya has always been disruptive to the regional food market because of the high demand for imports especially from Tanzania and Uganda.

At some point in 2011, Tanzania banned export of food to the rest of EAC states, Kenya in particular, to caution itself from disruption of its food supply.

Adequate food production in Kenya therefore has a positive effect in the EAC and this will come as a big relief to the governments because of reduced demand for food exports and also eliminates one of the drivers of inflation.

In the periods of 2011 and the better part of 2012, high inflation rates especially in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania that skyrocketed to over 25 per cent were blamed on insufficient food production and the rising cost of oil.

Most recent data indicates that only Tanzania is yet to achieve single digit inflation levels from that recovery with inflation there averaging 12.1 per cent in December compared with Kenya’s 3.2 per cent in the same month, Uganda 5.5 per cent, Rwanda 4.6 per cent and Burundi’s 8.4 per cent according to respective central banks.

Reports from the ministries responsible for agriculture production in EAC and independent regional food monitoring agencies like the Famine Early Warning System (FEWS) indicate that there has been good harvest providing a stable food supply in the first quarter of 2013.

“Significant improvements in food security are anticipated through March 2013,” said FEWS in its latest forecast for EAC.

The forecast notes that food insecure population has declined in the eastern Africa region to under 15 million. “It is down from 16 million in August, the result of improved access to food for poor households, declining food prices, improved labour opportunities, and the reduced impacts of conflict.

It is anticipated that numbers could decline further to March or shift to lower food insecurity classifications because both livestock and crop output are anticipated to increase significantly,” the forecast adds.

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