FAO/GIEWS Special Alert No. 271: Kenya (22 January 1997)

(Circulated only for countries where foodcrops or supply situation conditions give rise to concern)

The outlook for the short rains crops (mainly maize, millet, sorghum and pulses) has seriously deteriorated due to insufficient rainfall during the growing season. The rains, which normally start in mid-October came late, became sporadic and the situation has recently turned into one of drought. In most parts of North Eastern, Eastern and Coast Provinces, and in the low-altitude areas of Central Province, widespread crop failures and deteriorating pasture and rangeland conditions are reported and water scarcity has become a serious problem for both livestock and humans. Significant losses of livestock have also been reported. For these same areas, the failure of the 1996/97 short rains follows two consecutive failures of the long rains (March-May), thus worsening an already tight food supply situation. The Government estimates that some two million people are currently affected by the drought and that the number may reach three million if the situation persists. It has appealed to the international community for emergency food assistance for this section of the population.

For the country as a whole, an FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission, which visited Kenya in October/November 1996, estimated the 1996/97 national maize production at 2.2 million tons compared to 2.7 million tons in the 1995/96 season, a decrease of 18 percent due to a combination of economic and weather factors. Sorghum and millet production was estimated at about 200 000 tons. These 1996/97 production estimates were based on the assumption of a normal short rains season, but all indications now are that the season has failed, with the result that total production, including both cereals and pulses, will be well below the Mission's estimate.

The country will therefore need to import a much larger volume of foodgrains than previously estimated. While the Mission had estimated an import requirement of 1.1 million tons for the 1996/97 marketing year, a revised import requirement of at least 1.3 million tons is now projected. This is almost double the average for the past five years. It is anticipated that 1 million tons of food grains would be commercially imported, leaving a deficit of 300 000 tons. The Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR) is at a minimum level while the ability of the country to meet this shortfall through additional imports is limited due to foreign exchange constraints. Substantial external assistance is therefore needed. Total cereal food aid pledges as of end-December 1996 amounted to 43 000 tons. Donors are urged to make additional pledges and expedite their delivery as a matter of urgency to avoid a serious food problem developing in the country. GIEWS estimates of the revised cereal production and food aid needs will be issued in early April after an on-the-spot assessment of the situation.

This report is prepared on the responsibility of the FAO Secretariat with information from official and unofficial sources and is for official use only. Since conditions may change rapidly, please contact Mr. Abdur Rashid, Chief, ESCG, FAO, (Telex 610181 FAO I; Fax: 0039-6-5225-4495, E-Mail (INTERNET): GIEWS1@FAO.ORG) for further information if required.