KENYA – The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) has announced that it will roll out the three varieties of maize that are immune to armyworm invasion by the end of 2020.

Dr Stephen Mugo, a maize breeder at CIMMYT, said the new conventional breed would be available by the close of next year as the regulators are expected to conduct performance trials early 2020, reports Business Daily.

Speaking during a recently held stakeholder’s forum on fall armyworm Dr Mugo said the varieties are part of more than five maize varieties that researchers at the centre have developed to control the effects of the pest.

“We have got about five varieties that can be immune to the effects of fall armyworm and hopefully they will be in the market by the end of 2020 subject to approval by the government,” said Dr Mugo.

He said they had been working with the government and other institutions to come up with the new breed of maize.

The government reports that the damage from the pests will be worse this year presenting a threat to the country’s grain stocks.

Zachary Kinyua, head of crop research at Kenya Agricultural Research Organisation said: “The damage this year will be worse when compared with 2018 as late planting predisposes the crop to army worm attacks.”

Corn is an important commodity in the country’s food basket and despite a bumper harvest in the previous year, Kenya is expected to open an importation window in the coming weeks to cover an anticipated shortfall of 12.5 million bags.

Kenya recorded a bumper harvest in the previous season producing 46 million bags up from 35 million bags in 2017, however, the government projects a shortfall of 4.3 million bags of the commodity by July.

Agricultural think tank Tegemeo Institute and millers have warned that the country is on the verge of depleting the existing stocks by June, prompting the government to allow the importation of maize from July to December.

Although the East Africa Community has imposed a 50 per cent tariff on maize coming from outside the region and allows the free movement of maize produced within the bloc, member countries can import duty-free from other parts of the world to cover shortfalls.

As maize supply across the region country continues to dwindle, the country is expected to import the grain from international markets to fill any significant import gaps as seen in the past where Kenyan traders imported from far off countries such as Brazil and Mexico.