Global center seeks to promote wheat farming in Kenya to cut food imports


The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) said on Wednesday it will promote wheat farming in Kenya in order to help the east African nation reduce its food imports, officials said.

Stephen Mugo, Africa regional representative at (CIMMYT), told Xinhua in Nairobi that Kenya, like many sub-Saharan countries, is facing rising demand for wheat products such as bread while local production has stagnated or is declining.

"We will encourage small scale farmers in highlands, mid-potential areas and dry land areas to take up wheat cultivation so that Kenya can save the foreign currency that it uses to import the cereal," Mugo said.

According to government data, Kenya produced 165,200 tons of wheat in 2017, down from 214,700 tons in 2016. The Economic Survey 2018 also indicates that Kenya imported 1.86 million tons of wheat in 2017.

CIMMYT has already established a nursery in Kenya to screen for wheat stem rust which is one of the most common disease affecting the cereal.

Mugo said that wheat cultivation was introduced in Kenya as a large scale crop, hence the low uptake of wheat production among small scale farmers in the country.

"We have now developed technology for small scale farmers to grow wheat profitably," he added.

Mugo noted that with the right agronomic practices Kenyan farmers can increase their wheat yield from the current average of two tons per hectare to six tons per hectare.

CIMMYT also urged Kenya to prioritize wheat cultivation as rising incomes and urbanization rates will increase demand for the cereal crop going forward.

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