Kenyan rains to help ease inflation

2012-09-06 10:34

Nairobi - Rainfall during Kenya's short rainy season starting next month is expected to be above-average and well-distributed, meteorologists said, potentially easing food price pressures in the agriculture-led economy.

Kenya's year-on-year inflation rate fell for the ninth straight month and faster-than-expected in August to 6.09 percent, mainly aided by lower food prices from a month earlier. Agricultural output accounts for roughly one quarter of gross domestic product.

Favourable weather since the start in this year in East Africa's biggest economy has kept the supply of food stable and prices of key staples including maize low.

The agriculture ministry expects the supply of food - and prices - to be stable until December.

The Kenya Meteorological Department said in its short rains (October-December) outlook on Wednesday that the main food growing areas of Western, Nyanza, Central and Rift Valley would have above-average rainfall and advised farmers to take advantage of the favourable weather.

"Enhanced rainfall is expected over most agricultural areas of the country. It is also expected that the rainfall will be well distributed," it said.

Poor rains in the drought prone country typically hurt output and lead to an increase in costly food imports.

Precautionary measures

Meteorologists warned that early rains might increase post-harvest losses - when crops are damaged in storage. Unseasonably early rainfall can give rise to fungus attacks.

However, the agriculture ministry said crop damage would be "insignificant".

"We have already taken precautionary measures [to] assist farmers to access drying facilities so that their produce is stored under the right moisture content to reduce susceptibility to fungal attacks," Agriculture Ministry Permanent Secretary Romano Kiome told Reuters.

Hydropower generation is also expected to get a boost around the major catchment areas, improving water levels at dams. Kenya relies heavily on power generated from its hydrodams though it has proved unreliable during dry spells.

African seasons are typically divided into four: the short dry season is usually December to February or March; long rains fall over a six-week period into May; the long dry season is from June to September, with the two-week short rains stretches from October into December.