State of Kenya's Food Imports.

"We require to import 10 million bags between now and December, that is white maize for human consumption, we are also required to import 2.5 million bags of maize to cushion dairy farmers,"  a recent statement by the Agriculture Cabinet Secretary. 

To bring you up to speed, we are talking of Kenya's Agriculture Imports and Imports Dependency Ratio abbreviated as IDR.

Cereals Dependency Ratio
Cereals Dependency Ratio tells how much of the available domestic food supply of cereals has been imported and how much comes from the country's own production. This indicator provides a measure of the dependence of a country from cereal imports. The greater the indicator, the higher the dependence.

Did you know, that in 2018 Kenya spent over KES 17.49 B on importation and beverages. To cereals (which in most countries provides close to 93% of the total cereal calories) for every 100 bags of wheat, rice or maize consumed in the country, 42 bags are imported. Kenya's over-reliance on food imports has worsened with the current IDR at 32. These values transcend to a high dependence on imports to sustainably feed its population. 

Uganda, Zambia and Tanzania have always found themselves on our cereals suppliers list on matters importation. But let's have a look at their average overviews and stats of these states; Uganda's Cereals Import dependency ratio is at 8.6, Zambia's stands at 5 while Tanzania' Is at 8. 

Situation on the ground
Agriculture has for a long time been echoed as the backbone of Kenya's economy, with over 40% of its total population employed in this sector. However, the sector has been facing many challenges; from seasonal price fluctuations, poor returns and farmers exploitation by middlemen among others. 

It somehow beats logic to see a country with arable land import that which could be sourced locally. Unnecessary imports have over time killed farmers morale which in most cases is run by cartels yet our lands have the capacity to produce. Governments have also at times failed to cushion farmers from uncertainties and worse off the recommended prices do not usually guarantee profit margins. 

It wont go unnoticed that other costs of production such as fuel,labour,machines is on the rise. This reduces agricultural investments and diverts their production from commercial to substance which will impact our food reserves and stores. 

Possible Solutions 
Sufficient supply of cereals is definitely an indicator of food security in a country and Kenya needs to rethink and revitalize the agriculture sector in a bid to reduce its IDR. 

Strategies ought to be put in place to ensure that corn, wheat, rice among other most essential supplies are produced locally. By supporting farmers with improved quality and subsidized input, expert agronomic advice and channel our efforts in the production of cereals locally, we can increase food production and promote farmers as well, saving up huge amounts of money from importing. This will make farmers carry ou farming practices with the assurance of markets, better prices and increase in yield. 

The average farmer age currently stands at 60years. Investing in disruptive innovations within the Agriculture space will see youth get attracted and absorbed into the sector; their insights and hands-on will help solve some challenges facing farmers. They will be inspired to integrate technology through the development of online markets, drone technology in mapping, soil analytics (which some are already happening) among other disruptions. 

Governments, both national and county, need to fight food insecurity situation by strengthening a framework that will ensure all Kenyans, at all times, have access to sufficient, quality and nutritious food.

These efforts will immensely encourage Agri -investments locally, Improve farmers Returns on Investments(ROI) or profit margins and in turn make realization of food security in Kenya a success, 

#With all said and done, what's for dinner.

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