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July 26, 2008

Kenya encourages growing of traditional crops

Kenya's government has begun giving farmers seeds for traditional food crops, hoping to shore up stocks in the face of rising prices and shortage fears.

Poor rains, a bloody post-election crisis at the start of the year and fast-climbing prices for inputs such as fertilizer have slowed food production in east Africa's largest economy. The country will import 3 million bags of maize this year to cover forecast shortages.

"These crops are known to perform well in dry areas where food insecurity is a common feature due to inadequate rainfall," Agriculture Minister William Ruto said as the distribution of cassava, sweet potato and sorghum seeds got under way. He said production of crops like these had all declined in Kenya due to lack of planting materials, low interest among seed companies and changing eating habits.

The ministry is partnered in the $2.26 million project with the Kenya Seed Company, Kenya Agriculture Research Institute and Agricultural Development Corporation.

"With good crop management this is expected to produce a further 24,100 tons of seeds with a market value of 360 million shillings by April 2009," Ruto said.

Reuters

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