This year’s maize harvest is projected to be 33 million bags of 90 kgs, and this will be the lowest in a period of five years.
According to data from the Ministry of Agriculture, maize production in 2021 was 38 million bags and 42 million bags in 2020. 44.0 million and 44.6 million bags in 2019 and 2018 while 2017 saw the country harvest about 35.4 million bags of 90 kgs.
Dr James Karanja, a maize breeder from the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) said maize is important for food and livelihoods to many Kenyans, and that no maize, means no food.
Speaking to the Star during an interview, Karanja said consumption per capita is 80kg per person per year or 200g daily.
“Maize occupies the largest crop area of 40 percent of the arable land, however productivity is low at 1.8 tons/ hectares against a global yield of 4.9 tons per hectare. This is equivalent to five to seven bags per acre but the potential is 22 bags per acre,” he said.
He said Kenya experiences an annual national maize deficit of 20 percent or 11 million bags and so far, the country has already imported 540,000 metric tons worth Sh1.8 billion.
More than 12,000 farmers have reduced maize production in North Rift and diversified into high-value crops like avocado, coffee, macadamia and fruits.
Karanja attributed this to the high costs of inputs such as fertiliser coupled with other challenges like poor rains and depleted soils.
He said farmers are using a lot of fertiliser yet production is not increasing, due to poor soil quality.
Boga spoke to the Star on Monday during an interview.
“When your soil pH is less than 5.5, fertiliser application to such soil is a futile endeavour. Most agricultural soils in Kenya have pH less than 5.5 hence the need to test it,” said Boga.
He explained that most farmers rush to buy fertiliser as part of the rituals of trying to increase productivity.
On 22nd September 2022, the Government launched the subsidized fertiliser program of a total of 1.4 million bags of DAP planting fertiliser for the 2022/2023 short rains season.
The subsidized fertiliser is retailing at Sh3,500 per 50 kg bag down from Sh6,000 per 50 kg bag.
“Soils are complex and diverse even within the same farm. Soil pH is one of the key parameters that can affect soil fertility. In acidic soils pH less than 5.5 means most nutrients are not available to plants and are washed (leached) from the soils,” said Boga.
“Adding fertiliser to acidic soils is a futile exercise and a waste of money. Soil testing is therefore an absolute necessity before purchasing any fertilizer. Soil health is the foundation of a good farm and blind addition of fertiliser could itself destroy soil health making it acidic,” he said.