Kenya to import food to avert crisis (Lead)

June 1st, 2008 - 10:29 pm ICT by admin  

Nairobi, June 1 (Xinhua) Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki Sunday said his coalition government would import three million bags of maize by August to avert food crisis which has hit the east African nation. Kibaki, who was addressing the nation during celebrations to mark the country’s 45th anniversary of self-rule, said the country must urgently increase its food reserves, which will see the strategic maize reserves increased from four million bags to eight million bags in the next two years.

“Nevertheless, our situation has worsened by the impact of the post-election violence and the just failed rains in many parts of the country.

“In this regard, the government is importing three million bags of maize in the next two months, even as it continues to buy available maize stocks from our own producers,” Kibaki told the nation.

“As a medium-term measure, the government will also increase funding for the expansion of the Strategic Grain Reserve from four million bags,” he said.

Food prices have risen sharply in the region’s biggest economy since a political crisis over a disputed election led to food shortages.

Kenya’s Rift Valley region is the country’s source of agricultural produce.

The country’s political turmoil sparked by the disputed presidential elections disrupted supplies of wheat, maize, fresh flowers and tea leaves for both domestic and international markets.

Kibaki said the escalating international food prices were posing a serious threat to Kenya’s food security, therefore immediate measures are necessary to tackle the problem.

Food prices have risen sharply across the world, with rice prices doubling and maize prices up by 30 percent this year. The international oil prices are near record high at around $200 a barrel.

“The government will ensure supply of cheaper fertilizer through the National Cereals and Produce Board that would lower the cost of production for the locally produced maize,” he said.

On Saturday, Kenyan police fired teargas shells to disperse hundreds of demonstrators protesting against high food prices in the east African country.

The country’s annual inflation rose to 26.6 percent in April from 21.8 percent in March because of the soaring food prices.

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