NOTE: What's particularly interesting about this article about how Kenya is dealing with looming food shortages, is the reason given for Kenya preferring to import maize from Zambia.

In 2002 Zambia was vilified by the Bush administration - with the U.S. ambassador to the FAO even calling for Zambia's leaders to be tried in "the highest courts in the world" for "the highest crimes in the world" - for rejecting U.S. food aid in the form of GM maize.

This vilification has continuued to the present time quite regardless of the fact that alternative supplies were found and that the Zambian Red Cross stated unequivocally that not a single Zambian died because of the country's non-GM food aid policy.

Since 2002 Zambia has worked hard to build up its own production of non-GM maize, and now its maize exports seem to be preferred to those of its neighbour South Africa (the only African country growing GM maize commercially) precisely because Zambia's maize is non-GM.

Imagine if Zambia had embraced GM maize and was now exporting it to other countries in times of shortfall. The industry's PR machine would by now have the news emblazoned across the cover of TIME magazine that - thanks to the miracle of GM - a renaissant Zambia had "saved starving Africa"!!!

EXTRACT: South Africa is seen to be another vital source of imports but concern is rising over the country's use of genetically modified seeds in its farms.
Cereals board to buy maize from Zambia       
Zeddy Sambu
Business Daily Africa (Nairobi), 2 July 2008

Kenya will import one million bags of maize from Zambia to boost its stock and avert a looming shortage in the second half of the year.

Ministry of Agriculture officials said the consignment is expected to start arriving in August. The National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) is holding 1.8 million bags of maize in strategic reserves - enough to meet local consumption needs till mid August.

This amount is short of the target by one million bags. Some estimates have indicated that Kenya needs to import up to three million bags of maize in the next financial year to avert a food shortage crisis.

Last month, the government invited tenders for the purchase 270,000 tonnes of duty-free maize from the Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa).

Pre-qualification ended on Thursday last week paving the way for bidding to follow.

"White maize will be procured on behalf of the corporation by grain dealers who must go through the pre-qualification process," said Gideon Misoi, the managing director at NCPB. A 50 per cent rise in food prices this year has forced many households to cut back on their consumption, according to the World Food Programme (WFP). 

A two-kilogramme packet of maize flour, is currently retailing at Sh80 up from Sh50 earlier this year.

Tegemeo Institute, an agricultural policy research institution, says Kenya needs to import at least eight million bags of maize to meet its domestic consumption needs until October when the North Rift harvests its crop.

With the first batch of the maize imports yet to arrive, the country runs the risk of importing too little too late.

By the end of February the country had a maize bank of around 28 million bags. But by this month, the stocks were down to between four and five million bags.

Even with the duty free imports, prices of cereals are expected to remain high due high shipping costs around the globe. Imported maize is expected to cost more than Sh2,000 per 90kg bag compared with Sh1,700 for locally produced maize.

Tegemeo's projections show that the gap between demand and supply in the domestic market will recur next year and last until the harvesting season of October 2009. The projection is based on the fact that output in the North Rift is expected to drop by 10 million from an annual average of 16 million bags.

"The reason for this is that less land has been cultivated with maize and high fertilizer prices will result in lower yields," it says.

Other supplies into Kenya are expected to come from Tanzania and Uganda as soon as harvesting starts in July.

Ordinarily, Kenya imports between 60,000-75,000 tonnes of maize from the neighbouring states but inflows from Tanzania are expected to be limited by a curb on exports.

South Africa is seen to be another vital source of imports but concern is rising over the country’s use of genetically modified seeds in its farms.

Some private South Africa traders had cautioned Kenya against delays in the import implementation programme as increased demand could push prices further up.

Reports say that trade in agricultural commodities is expected to thrive as harvesting begins despite export bans imposed by various countries in Eastern and Southern Africa.

Statistics show that the largest quantity of maize ever imported during similar drought spells was 90,000 tonnes.