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Long rains may fail, weatherman warns

The weatherman on Wednesday warned that below-average rainfall is expected over the highlands west, central and south of the Rift Valley, all of which are key farming regions.

The region covers Trans Nzoia and Uasin Gishu counties, which are considered Kenya’s bread baskets and contribute a large share of the country’s maize production.

“The depressed rainfall over most parts of the country is likely to negatively affect agricultural production, especially over the high potential areas of the highlands west and east of the rift valley, central, and south rift, as well as the southeastern lowlands,” said the Met.

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Depressed rainfall will worsen food security and nutrition in the arid and semi-arid regions, but the problem is expected to spread to other parts of the country.

“Food prices are expected to rise further and accessibility to food is also expected to be poor,” said the agency when releasing the long rain season’s outlook.

Kenya’s climatic woes could worsen towards the end of the year, particularly during the short rains period, when the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) has warned the region could experience the El Nino weather phenomenon as high temperatures and persistent drought in the Greater Horn of Africa disrupt normal patterns.

“Long lead forecasts for June to August indicate a much higher chance of 55 per cent of El Nino developing,” said WMO in a statement.

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El Nino rains could impact farm produce as they could come during the harvest season, leading to losses and further causing disruptions in the food value chain. Commodity prices, already impacted by the ongoing drought, could continue their upward trend into the new year, according to the forecasts.

The weatherman wants relevant authorities and humanitarian institutions to closely monitor the situation and provide food and food supplements to the most vulnerable communities to avert the loss of lives.

The revelation of poor rains comes at a time when the country is facing an acute shortage of maize, which has pushed the price of flour beyond the reach of many consumers and added more pressure on inflation. A two-kilogramme packet of flour is currently retailing at Sh200, up from Sh150 in the corresponding period last year.

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