In Kenya, the demand for cassava has exceeded production by a staggering 200%, prompting the need for imports from neighboring countries to meet local consumption and industrial requirements. This imbalance has opened a window of opportunity for Ugandan farmers to significantly expand their cassava exports to Kenya.
Kenya’s local demand for cassava has surged to 3 million metric tonnes, far surpassing the 946,076 MT produced within the country. This increased usage of cassava extends beyond human consumption, with its application in animal feeds and starch for various industries. However, Kenyan cassava production lags behind the impressive yields achieved by China, Indonesia, and Thailand, with an average productivity of 14.54 tons per hectare compared to 16-24 tons per hectare in these other nations.
While Kenya is the least producer of cassava in the East African region, Uganda boasts a production of 4 million MT annually, making it a potential cassava export powerhouse. Several factors contribute to Kenya’s cassava production challenges, including the lack of clean planting materials, unstructured markets, weak seed systems, and an inadequate regulatory framework.
In Kenya, cassava is predominantly cultivated in coastal, central, and western regions, serving as a vital source of food, income, and livestock feed. However, despite its importance, yields are significantly below the crop’s agronomic potential. For instance, the average cassava farm yields in Kenya range from 7-10 MT per hectare, whereas the research yield potential stands at approximately 50 MT per hectare of fresh cassava tubers.
To address this critical issue, Kenya’s State Department of Crop Development and Agricultural Research is taking measures to enhance food security and promote commercialization. They are working on identifying, classifying, and communicating all crop varieties within the next three months, with a particular focus on promoting domestic farmers.
Morag Ferguson, a Crop Germplasm Scientist and Molecular Breeder from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), emphasizes the importance of high-quality cassava seeds in increasing production. Developing high-yielding, virus-resistant cassava seed varieties is a priority, and initiatives like the Cassava Seed Tracker aim to improve seed traceability and source identification.
This situation presents an excellent opportunity for Ugandan farmers to step in and fill the cassava supply gap in Kenya. By ensuring consistent high-quality cassava supply, Ugandan farmers can play a pivotal role in meeting Kenya’s growing demand for cassava.
In conclusion, the cassava shortage in Kenya, driven by surging local demand and production challenges, underscores the potential for Ugandan farmers to capitalize on this opportunity by boosting cassava exports to Kenya. To make the most of this opening, it is essential for Ugandan farmers to maintain high-quality production and supply practices, which could help satisfy Kenya’s hunger for this versatile crop while benefiting both countries’ agricultural sectors.