NAIROBI, April 18 (Reuters) - Kenya expects food supplies to be stable to September due to improved output of key staples but will still need to import maize to boost stocks, the agriculture ministry said.
Prices of staples including maize, wheat and rice are expected to fall marginally in the six months to September on improved supply, easing inflationary pressures on households in east Africa’s biggest economy, the ministry said in brief obtained by Reuters on Wednesday.
Kenya said it planned to import 1.05 million 90-kg bags of maize from regional and international markets to add to supplies, despite bigger harvests following good rains in its main growing areas.
The ministry said the national maize stocks stood at 18.61 million bags at March 31, down marginally from 18.94 million in February, but expects this to be sufficient until September.
“The slight decrease in stocks in March compared to February is mainly attributed to local consumption,” it said.
Kenya’s year-on-year rate of inflation fell for a fourth consecutive month in March to 15.61 percent, the lowest level since July 2011, despite a marginal increase in the food component.
The country’s inflation rate climbed to nearly 20 percent last year on the back of rising food and energy prices.
Kenya is presently in its long rain season, and meteorologists project rainfall to be near normal but poorly distributed.
The Kenya Meteorological Department said last month in its long rains (March-May) outlook that food-growing areas of western Kenya, Nyanza and the Rift Valley would have near or above-normal rain, and it advised farmers to take advantage of the favourable weather.
However, it said other food-growing areas such as central, southeastern and coastal Kenya would have near or below-normal rains and that farmers should plant appropriate crops.
“According to latest food security assessment conducted in these areas, most households have stocks enough to last 2 to 3 months,” the ministry said. (Editing by Yara Bayoumy and Jane Baird)