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Ruto, experts differ on expected maize ‘bumper’ harvest

President William Ruto’s projections of a bumper maize harvest in 2023 appear to differ from expert opinion.

The Head of State recently announced that farmers are expected to harvest up 66 million bags of maize this year.

While addressing the congregation at Faith Evangelistic Ministry Church in Karen, Nairobi County, on August 13, 2023, Dr Ruto expressed his optimism the nation’s harvest will improve to 66 million bags of maize in 2025.

He said: ““This year, we are anticipating bumper harvests of 66 million bags, compared to last year, 2022, when production reached 44 million bags.”

The increased harvest according to the President, has been made possible by both the subsidized fertilizer program and increased harvest and improved rainfall.

Dr Ruto cited this year’s rainfall as the most significant and sustained in comparison to the past five years.

However, the President’s expectations contrast with those of experts and scientists.

According to Dr James Karanja, a maize breeder from the Kenya Agricultural Livestock and Research Organization (Kalro) Kabete Centre, the country may struggle to harvest more than 35 million bags of maize this year.

The projection is due to challenges facing cereal production, such as infestations by the stalk borer, a highly destructive insect pest.

“This year, Kenya may find it challenging to harvest more than 35 million bags of maize,” Dr Karanja stated.

The country is losing a significant amount of maize to stalk borers.

The scientist noted the pest has reduced production to less than 23 bags of 90 kilograms per acre.

In a previous interview with Nairobi News, Dr Karanja also identified the fall armyworm as another destructive pest undermining farmers’ efforts.

“The target should be at least 42 bags, but the stalk borer remains a major obstacle for farmers.”

The maize production estimate provided by Kalro, a state-owned agency, also differs from the Agriculture Ministry’s projection, which averages around 44 million bags.

In 2021, Kenya harvested 36.7 million bags.

On average, the country requires 50 to 52 million bags of maize annually for consumption, which means that the shortfall is largely supplemented through imports.​ This has led to the government importing maize from Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia in a bid to make up for the shortfall.