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Politics | Agriculture - Nutrition | Economy - Development

Four arrested in Nairobi food protests

afrol News, 2 June - Four protesters were arrested last Saturday in the Kenyan capital Nairobi for protesting against the soaring food prizes. Police described their demonstration as illegal and fired tear gas to disperse the crowd counted in hundreds. Demonstrators were waving placards demanding government to cut down prizes of staple food like maize meal in the country.

Kenya has been hit by a rapid increase of over 6% inflation between March and April this year (21.8% to 26.6%)mainly because of current hikes in food prizes worldwide.

Although President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya acknowledged that Kenyans are feeling the burden of increased prize in basic commodities he has however urged them to also admit that the rest of the world is feeling the pressure too.
In a speech published on the state house website, he revealed that his government plans to import 3 million bags of maize in the next two months as part of cushioning for the shocks.

Mr. Kibaki further said that his government was increasing funding for expansion of the strategic grain reserve from 4 million to 8 million bags of maize in the next two years as a medium term measure.

"The government is also making available, cheaper fertilizer through the national cereals and produce board, which will in turn lower the cost of maize production in the country. In addition to the political challenges we faced early this year, we are also facing serious social challenges caused by the rapid rise in the cost of living over the last few months. The government is also making available, cheaper fertilizer through the national cereals and produce board, which will in turn lower the cost of maize production in the country", the president added.

The recently published report prepared by Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations had projected an increase in a range from less than 10 percent for rice and sugar, under 20 percent for wheat, around 30 percent for butter, coarse grains and oilseeds to over 50 percent for vegetable oils.

The report further estimates about 850 million people in the world today suffering from hunger and about 820 million live in developing countries. The report alludes to growing demand for biofuel as another factor contributing to higher prices. World fuel ethanol production has tripled between 2000 and 2007 and is expected to double again between now and 2017 to reach 127 billion litres a year. The growth in biofuel production adds to demand for grains, oilseeds and sugar, contributing to higher crop prices.

The protests come at a time when Kenya is still recovering from the country's disputed presidential election in December that had left 1,500 people dead and an estimated 600,000 people displaced in the aftermath of post-elections violence. Granaries and farms were also burnt to ashes, contributing to the current shortages in food supplies.

Meanwhile, heads of states from United Nations' member countries are expected to address and deliberate on food security issues in the face of soaring food prices and the new challenges of climate change and energy security in upcoming 'High-Level Conference on World Food Security: the Challenges of Climate Change and Bioenergy will be in Rome Italy from 3 to 5 June 2008.

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