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Why rice's overtaking maize as Kenya's staple food

Posted on October, 17, 2016 at 11:12 am

For many years, maize has been Kenya's staple food. However, this may not be the case in the near future because rice is increasingly becoming popular among Kenyans, says a new survey. The report by Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development shows many Kenyans are now turning to rice and other foods because maize production has gone down and rarely meets the demand.

Also, the report notes, changing lifestyles and growth of the middle class has seen consumers substitute maize with rice. Other foods increasingly becoming popular among Kenyans are potatoes and bananas. The report shows the country's maize production has been on a downward trend for years and this has forced Kenyans to start stocking rice as a staple food.

"Our analysis reveals that rice, plantain and potatoes are the alternative staple foods that continue to gain popularity among both rural and urban households," said associate researcher Francis Karin. The survey shows rural households consuming posho maize flour declined to 78 per cent in 2015, from 86 per cent in 2013. The average weekly consumption per household also declined to 6.9kg in 2015, from 7.9kg in 2013.

Consequently, there was a decline in the national per capita maize consumption from 83kgs in 2009 to 55–78kg per household currently. The survey was carried out in Uasin Gishu, Trans-Nzoia, Nakuru, Nandi and Narok counties, the main maize-producing areas in Kenya. Karin said Kenya may have been forced to import nine million bags to bridge the deficit in May, June and July this year because the country did not produce enough maize.

Households consuming rice increased from 54 to 61 per cent between 2013 to 2015. Increase in consumption of plantain also went up from 29 to 34 per cent, with those consuming potatoes going up from 41 to 44 per cent over the same period. "On average, the country imports over 50 per cent of its demand for rice and wheat and 7 to 10 per cent of maize.

This is despite favourable conditions for production, thus implying an unexploited potential or lack of sufficient policy support for increased production," says the report. The National Rice Development Strategy projected that demand for rice will rise to 350,000 tonnes this year. But other reports show demand for rice overshot the projection by almost 50 per cent to 550,000 tonnes.

Source: Standard Digital