Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Kenya faces wheat shortage as North Rift farmers reduce crop acreage


WEDNESDAY MAY 31 2017
A tractor ploughs a farm at Kapsaret in Uasin Gishu County on February 09, 2017. Kenya is staring at a wheat deficit after farmers in North Rift cut the number of acreage under the crop, opting for maize following improved prices. FILE PHOTO | NMG
A tractor ploughs a farm at Kapsaret in Uasin Gishu County on February 09, 2017. Kenya is staring at a wheat deficit after farmers in North Rift cut the number of acreage under the crop, opting for maize following improved prices. FILE PHOTO | NMG 
By STANLEY KIMUGE
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Kenya is staring at a wheat deficit after farmers in North Rift cut the number of acreage under the crop, opting for maize following improved prices.
The country is a net importer of wheat, producing below 500,000 tonnes against an annual consumption of 1 million tonnes, according to Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) data.
Farmers who spoke to the Business Daily said the high cost of maintenance of the crop and poor prices forced them to reduce the acreage or abandon it altogether.
Last season, the national government increased prices of maize from Sh2300 to Sh3000 per 90 kilogramme bag.
Johnson Murei, a large-scale wheat farmer from Moiben in Uasin Gishu said he was forced to reduce the number of acreage from 500 to about 200 this season.
“The cost of producing the crop is very expensive especially the chemicals used to control weeds and rust.
Subsidy programme
"Most farmers in this area have planted less wheat this year, it is government introduces subsidy programme like maize so that farmers produce more wheat,” he said.
Farmers and traders in the country’s bread basket have increased maize flour prices in markets.
The price of a 90-kilogramme bag is retailing on average at between Sh4,200 and Sh4,800.
Kimutai Kolum, another farmer from Ziwa, also said that the cost of farm inputs had gone up for wheat farmers.
“The planting or harvesting is not a challenge for most farmers; the problem is how to maintain the crop.
"The cost of chemicals used to control weeds goes for Sh25,000 per 5 litres enough for 5 acres yet we also have to spray every two weeks to control the rust,” he added.
He said most farmers opted to plant maize due to better market prices as well as government fertiliser and top dressing subsidy programme, and anticipates that there will be high production of maize next season.
“However, we might have a lot of maize next year erratic weather and the fall armyworm invasion, those farmers who will not spray might lose the crop.”
The Ministry of Agriculture projects harvests of 32.8 million bags, down from to 37.1 last year — representing a decline of 11.5 per cent.
Drop in production
Maize production is forecast to drop by 4.3 million bags this year on delayed rains and armyworm attacks, setting the stage for expensive maize flour next year.
Egerton University think tank, Tegemeo Institute, says the cost of controlling the crop-eating caterpillars using pesticides will increase to Sh2,000 for a 90-kilogramme bag of maize for large-scale farmers from Sh1,700.
Crop-eating armyworms are likely to raise the cost of producing a bag of maize by Sh300, putting pressure on flour prices.
More than 15 counties, including Trans-Nzoia, Uasin-Gishu, Kwale, Taita Taveta, Nakuru, Busia and Bungoma, have been invaded by the pests.
Various county governments and national government have allocated funds towards the eradication of the destructive pest.
These are agricultural-rich counties and a widespread attack could aggravate the ongoing food crisis that has seen prices skyrocket.
“This year the cost of production is expected to go up following the invasion of the armyworms that has seen farmers incur an extra cost to put these pests at bay,” said James Githuku, a researcher at Tegemeo.

Live: NASA announces first ever mission to sun


AP/Cape Canaveral
Filed on May 31, 2017

The purpose is to study the sun's outer atmosphere and better understand how stars like ours work

A NASA spacecraft will aim straight for the sun next year.

The space agency announced the red-hot mission Wednesday at the University of Chicago.

Scheduled to launch in summer 2018, the Solar Probe Plus will fly within 4 million miles of the sun's surface - right into the solar atmosphere. It will be subjected to brutal heat and radiation like no other man-made structure before.

The purpose is to study the sun's outer atmosphere and better understand how stars like ours work.

The announcement came during a ceremony honoring astrophysicist Eugene Parker, professor emeritus at the University of Chicago.

Bomb scare forces Malaysian Airlines plane to turn back to Melbourne


Bomb scare forces Malaysian Airlines plane to turn back to Melbourne
A Malaysia Airlines flight en route from Melbourne to Kuala Lumpur has been diverted back to its point of departure, after a “disruptive” passenger tried to enter the cockpit.
The plane turned back after its captain “was alerted by a cabin crew [member] of a passenger attempting to enter the cockpit,” Malaysia Airlines said in a statement
According to some media reports citing passengers, the man in question was holding an “electronic frequency” device or claimed he had explosives.
The Flight MH128 then successfully landed at Melbourne Airport. Malaysia Airlines said the disruptive passenger was detained by airport security.
The airport was placed on lockdown and all flights were suspended while the flight waited for security assistance, local media reported.
The man who tried to enter the cockpit was reportedly subdued by other passengers, according to social media reports.
In an air traffic control audio recording obtained by the Sydney Morning Herald, the pilot can allegedly be heard saying: "We have a passenger trying to enter the cockpit."
Some three minutes later, he said the passenger was "claiming to have an explosive device, tried to enter the cockpit, [and] has been overpowered by passengers."
"However, we'd like to land and have the device checked," the pilot added.

New on Pornhub: Corruption allegations video that court ordered Russia’s Navalny to delete


New on Pornhub: Corruption allegations video that court ordered Russia’s Navalny to delete
A Moscow district court has ruled that a video released by opposition activist and anti-corruption blogger Aleksey Navalny that accuses top government officials and big businessmen of corruption is “inconsistent with reality” and must be deleted.
The court found that the “information presented [in the video] is inconsistent with reality” and “obliged Aleksey Navalny and [his NGO] Foundation for Countering Corruption to delete all the information and videos [containing it] from the Internet within ten days of the effective date of the court ruling,” Russian media report.
The court was ruling in favor of Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov, who filed a lawsuit against Navalny in April accusing the activist of “tarnishing his honor, dignity and reputation.” Usmanov asked for no financial compensation, but wanted Navalny to retract the allegedly false information about him in the video.
The court also obliged Navalny and his NGO to issue an official retraction concerning the video and publish it on the Foundation for Countering Corruption website within three months.
The activist already said he would not delete the video even if the court ordered it.
“It is absolutely out of question,” he said in a Twitter post.
The corruption video was published on the PornHub adult video website soon after the court ruling was announced.
The video in question, which was released by Navalny and his NGO in March, accuses Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev of owning large quantities of real estate through businessmen and companies close to him.
It also alleged that Usmanov’s donation of a piece of land and house to the Foundation for Support of Socially-Important State Projects in 2010 was, in fact, a bribe, as the businessman was seeking favors in business schemes involving government contracts.
The clip gained heavy traction on social media and was eventually used as the justification for unsanctioned protests in the capital and other Russian cities on March 26.
In April, Usmanov denounced the allegations presented in Navalny’s video as a “slander” and accused the activist of “deliberately misleading the public.” Several other people mentioned in the film also slammed the charges leveled in it as politically-charged propaganda.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev also commented on the clip, calling it an “absolutely false product of political scoundrels,” while accusing Navalny of misleading the people in an attempt to “achieve his own obvious political goals.”
Navalny is one of three politicians that have already declared their intention to run for the Russian presidency in 2018. Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the head of the Liberal-Democratic Party, and Grigory Yavlinsky, the founder of the Yabloko Party, are the other two.
Under Russian law, Navalny technically cannot run because of a five-year suspended sentence he is serving that won’t expire before the next election. The activist has vowed to contest this rule in Russia’s Constitutional Court, however

UN: Starvation threatens 2 million in drought-hit Somalia

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