The Nation Media Group (NMG) wheat festival kicks off in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County on Thursday morning, bringing together stakeholders and farmers in the wheat industry for the next two days.
Stakeholders are converging for the premier expo at a time when a huge demand has been reported on the wheat market amid a huge deficit, following the global disruption of wheat supply as a result of the Russia-Ukraine war.
Industry stakeholders and experts will gather at Central Primary Grounds- opposite Zion Mall for three days starting today to share knowledge on planting and production, as well as the current challenges, with a view to promote crop sustainability in the country.
The expo running from June 29 to June 30 will display modernisation of Kenya’s wheat industry, drawing from best practices, as well as a conference on wheat planting, harvesting, processing, grading, storage, packaging, distribution and allied industries. There will also be a cooking competition featuring college students from Uasin Gishu county.
It is a timely event for many farmers, like George Kibet, who has planted wheat at his Moiben for many years, but has had to tackle pests and diseases, as well as climate change challenges that have affected yields.
Kenya produces less than 500,000 tonnes of wheat against a consumption of over one million tonnes, forcing the country to import to plug the deficit.
Wheat growers have called for incentives to turn-around fortunes of the crop and improve local production.
Kenya Seed Company has indicated that it is working to increase seed for wheat crops after recording a huge demand in the region, following the global disruption of wheat supply as a result of the Russia-Ukraine war.
“Wheat is our second crop after maize and we are keen to avail more seeds. This season, we witnessed huge demand for wheat in the market and there was still a deficit. We are working to increase wheat seeds,” the MD stated.
At the NMG expo, experts from the Kenya cereals circles and the Ministry of Agriculture and millers will share their insights on how to improve production.
Some experts in the sector want the researchers to develop more varieties that can withstand the changing climate conditions.
“We need more varieties that can withstand climatic conditions as the region becomes warmer. The varieties that we have are meant for the cold regions,” stated Timothy Njagi, from the Tegemeo food think-tank.
Wheat growers in the North Rift note that the cost of production has gone up over the years, hence the need for ways to tackle the effects on production, which has pushed up the cost of wheat products on the local market.
Kenya Farmers Association director Kipkorir Arap Menjo says bad policies in the sector and land sub-division have contributed to reduced acreage under wheat.
He said past regimes lowered the excise duty on wheat imported from outside the country, including Ukraine, from 30 per cent to 10 per cent, which affected local production negatively.
Ukraine is one of the largest wheat producers in the world and exporters to the Middle East and Africa.