FEWS Kenya: Jul 2002 - Jun 2003 Annual Harvest Assessment


The outcome of the July 2002-June 2003 season was mixed -- long-rains production was favorable in the key growing and high potential areas yet poor in the drought-prone marginal areas. However, in a welcome reversal, short-rains output was higher-than-normal in the short-rains dependent marginal agricultural cropping areas. Reduced supply of the key staple, maize caused substantial increases in prices across the country, during most of the production period, after an extended period of low prices. Food imports continued to crucially bridge production deficits, particularly for beans, wheat and rice.

Background: Kenya's Production Systems

Kenya's production system is characterized by a combination of uni-modal and bi-modal rainfall patterns. The uni-modal rainfall pattern is characteristic of Rift Valley, Western, Coast Provinces and the pastoral areas of Eastern and Rift Valley Provinces. The March to December long-rains season is the sole production season in these areas. The bi-modal rainfall pattern is characteristic of Central, Eastern and Nyanza Provinces, with the short-rains season running from October-February. Production systems in Kenya are classified into five broad categories as shown in figure 1. The crop growing areas are confined to the areas shaded green and purple. These areas are high potential and the most important. The hatched areas are associated with the bi-modal rainfall pattern -- see figure 1.

Figure 1: Kenya's Production/Livelihood Systems

There exists substantial variability in the onset and duration of the long-rains season. The long-rains season begins in February in the early planting areas of Nyanza, the southern Rift Valley and Western Provinces and between mid to late March in most of the rest of the country. Likewise the end of the season ranges from July-August in the early planting areas of the Rift Valley, Eastern and Central Provinces. However, the main long-rains grain harvest occurs in November and December in the 'grain basket' districts of the Rift Valley Province. The long-rains season is most important and contributes over 80 percent to national output of major food commodities. The short-rains season runs from October to February in the major short- rains producing districts of Eastern, Central, Nyanza and Coast Provinces. However, the short-rains season remains the most critical season among the drought-prone marginal agricultural households of the country. Annex 1 is an illustration of the country's diverse agricultural calendar.

Maize, beans, sorghum, millet, wheat, rice and Irish potatoes are the country's major food crops. Horticultural crops are grown principally in Central, Eastern and parts of Rift Valley Provinces. Coffee, tea, sugarcane and pyrethrum are grown almost exclusively as cash crops. These crops are grown predominately in the high potential areas of Central, Rift Valley and a few upper lying areas of Eastern and Nyanza Provinces.

Livestock production is the preeminent source of livelihood for pastoralists and agropastoralists, residing in up to 70 percent of Kenya's land area. The major pastoral areas are found in North Eastern, Eastern and Rift Valley Provinces. Indigenous local breeds are the principal livestock reared in the pastoral as well as in the marginal agricultural areas. Conversely, high yielding improved breeds of livestock are reared in the high potential areas of the Rift Valley, Central and Western Provinces.

Agroclimatic Conditions During the 2002/03 Production Seasons

Favorable crop conditions in the key high potential districts situated in the Rift Valley, Western and Nyanza Provinces during the long-rains season contrasted sharply with poor agroclimatic conditions during the same season in the marginal agricultural districts of Eastern and Coast Provinces. However, good short-rains in these marginal agricultural districts significantly compensated for the poor long-rains. Figure 2 is an illustration of crop mixed crop conditions particularly during the long-rains season.

Fig. 2: WRSI Anomaly: a) 2002 Long-rains Season b) 2002/03 Short-rains Season

Production of Key Food Crops - the July 2002-June 2003 Cropping Year

Maize is the overwhelming staple and food crop grown in Kenya and accounts for over 70 percent of national cereal consumption. Maize production is disproportionate -- close to 50 percent of national maize output is derived from only seven neighboring districts in the Rift Valley Province -- see figure 3. 1.6 million hectares were put to maize during the 2002/03 long and short-rains production seasons, while an estimated 2.4 million MT of maize was harvested. Area put to maize and production were closely consistent with averages of 1.5 million hectares and 2.4 million MT respectively.

There was a 13 percent reduction in long-rains output, which was moderated somewhat, by a similar increase in short-rains output. The 13 percent reduction in long-rains maize output was attributed to a combination of a late season onset followed by mostly erratic rains in marginal agricultural areas of Eastern, Central and Nyanza Provinces. Fortunately, the main maize-producing and high potential districts experienced generally favorable conditions throughout the critical long-rains season.

Higher-than-average short-rains maize output was attributed to heavy and well-distributed rains, associated with the El Niño event, in the bi-modal and short-rains dependent marginal agricultural districts. However, farmers averted expected post-harvest losses by selling much of their grain soon after the short-rains harvest, though at lowered prices. The Larger Grain Borer has been a most destructive pest, particularly in these areas - losses of more than 50 percent were reported after the short-rains harvest of 2001/02.

Fig. 3: Maize Production in 2002/03 by Province, Compared to Average

Although annual maize output was lower than consumption requirements, close to 500,000 MT of carryover stocks were sufficient to meet consumption needs but only up to the end of July 2003 -- see figure 4.

Fig. 4: National Maize Production 1992 - June 2003

Domestic output of wheat, the second most important cereal, traditionally meets less than 40 percent of the country's consumption needs. Most of the rest of the requirement is imported. During the 2002/03 production period, 300,000 MT of wheat was obtained from 142,000 hectares, representing a 13 percent increase over normal wheat output. The favorable output was attributed to favorable agroclimatic conditions in the four main growing districts of Uasin Gishu, Narok, and Nakuru in the Rift Valley Province and Meru District in Eastern Province. Figure 5 and annex 2 are an illustration and tabulation respectively, of the production, supply and consumption of key food commodities.

Rice is grown in irrigation schemes situated in Nyanza and Central Provinces. Rice Production has steadily declined in recent seasons, principally due to the collapse of several irrigation schemes in Nyanza Province. Subsequently, local production normally meets only 30 percent of total national consumption. Domestic production shortfalls are being increasingly mitigated by imports through Tanzania and the sea port of Mombasa. During 2002/03, 40,000 MT of rice was harvested from 10,000 hectares, representing a 10 percent reduction in both output and planted hectarage, a function of declining national output alluded to earlier.

Sorghum is grown principally in the often drought-prone marginal agricultural areas of Eastern, Nyanza and Coast Provinces. Consumption of sorghum is similarly localized to these growing areas. Although area put to sorghum increased by over 10 percent during the 2002/03 growing period, the 90,000 MT output obtained from 142,000 hectares, represents a 6 percent reduction over the 1993-'01 average. The decline in output was attributed to poor agroclimatic conditions in the key growing coast and lakeshore areas. Nevertheless, production of sorghum was supplemented by 61,000 MT of carryover stocks.

Millet is another important cereal crop grown in a similar agroecology as sorghum. Millet output for the 2002/03 production period was closely consistent with average. The MoALD attributed the greater resilience of the millet crop to the use of the more drought-tolerant local varieties - in spite of unfavorable long-rains in key growing areas. The 50,000 MT produced, from 115,000 hectares during the season, including 10,000 MT of carry carryover stocks from the previous year's output, ably met the 41,000 MT domestic demand.

Fig. 5: Production and Consumption of Key Food Commodities during 2002 July - June 2003

Beans are the most important of the pulses in terms of both production and consumption. Other minor pulses include pigeon peas, green grams and cowpeas. 390,000 MT of beans were obtained from 900,000 hectares during the 2002/03 growing season. Both output and area put to beans represent a 22 percent increase over the respective 1993-01 averages. The increase in area put to beans compensated for yield losses that arose from excessive short-rains in Eastern Province and poor long-rains in the Coast and Eastern Provinces.

Fig. 6: Comparative Maize Prices in Key Reference Markets

The 2002/03 output accounts for just over 70 percent of the national consumption requirement. Fortunately, cross border imports from Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia and Rwanda have over the previous few years, bridged this production shortfall.

Potatoes (Irish) are the most important tuber crop grown and consumed across most livelihoods of the country. Potatoes tend to substitute for maize, particularly in Central and Eastern Provinces. 1 million MT of potatoes were harvested from 112,000 hectares, representing a 17 percent higher-than-average output as well a 13 percent increase in area. Traditionally potatoes are grown principally in the high potential areas of the country. Subsequently, generally favorable agroclimatic conditions throughout the year ensure that the supply of potatoes is continuous and adequately meets local consumption needs.

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