Weatherman on the spot over failed rain forecast

Economy

Weatherman on the spot over failed rain forecast

The so-called long rains season from March to May hasn’t started in most parts of the country despite the favourable forecast. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The government has faulted the weatherman for giving inaccurate forecast that looks set to hurt food production this year and curb economic growth.

Chief Administrative Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Andrew Tuimur said Kenya Meteorological Department should improve on its forecast to guide growers accordingly in their farming calendar.

The forecast prompted farmers in Western Kenya to plant in March with many now staring at failed crops and losses running into millions of shillings on fertiliser, seeds and planting costs.

The so-called long rains season from March to May hasn’t started in most parts of the country despite the favourable forecast.

The weatherman issued another false alert promising rains in early April, which has brought confusion in Uasin Gishu and Trans Nzoia — which produce the bulk of Kenya’s maize grain staple.

“The Meterological Department should improve on their forecast to give updates that are a bit accurate in regard to the weather situation,” said Dr Tuimur.

Agriculture accounts for a third of Kenya’s annual economic output or gross domestic product (GDP) and contributes directly and indirectly to nearly half of Kenya’s labour.

Poor rainfall translates to lost earnings to farmers and related industries as well as expensive food and spike in inflation.

Deprived weather also forces the State into expensive expenditures like importation of food and subsidies to encourage imports — which leads to duty losses.

The dry weather is likely to curb Kenya’s economic growth this year, the World Bank said Tuesday, cutting its forecast to 5.7 percent growth.

Kenya’s economy expanded by about 5.8 percent last year, the bank said in its latest report on Kenya, as the country recovered from a slowdown the year before caused by another drought and election jitters.

“The medium-term growth outlook is stable, but recent threats of drought could drag down growth,” the World Bank said.

The latest forecast is down from a 5.8 percent projection in October.

“Risks include drought conditions that could curtail agricultural output, especially if the country’s grain-growing counties are affected,” the bank said.

If the government fails to meet its revenue collection targets, the economy could face more risk from macroeconomic instability, the bank said in the report.

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