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INTERNATIONAL - Kenya is on course to import approximately one million tons of wheat in 2019, an increase of 4 percent from the previous year, the industry said on Wednesday.

Anthony Kioko, chief executive of Cereal Growers Association told Xinhua in Nairobi that local production will remain steady at about 350,000 tons.

"One of the drivers of the rising demand for wheat is urbanization which has resulted in a change in diet from the traditional staple of maize to wheat-based products such as bread," Kioko said at an event during a forum by the agricultural industry alliance on the country's new pesticide legislation.

He said that the country's main source of imports is Russia and Ukraine but sometimes the United States and Canada.

"The cereal millers prefer imports because they are cheaper as compared to locally produced wheat," he added. According to the lobby, foreign wheat producers have an advantage over Kenya farmers because they receive subsidies from their governments.

Kioko revealed that local production remains uncompetitive due to the high cost of fertilizers and the lack of appropriate seeds.

He noted that area under wheat production is estimated at 200,000 hectares. "Wheat farming can be extended into the arid areas with the use of technology and conservation agriculture," he added.

The cereal lobby said that Kenya's production of the staple crop maize is expected to hit 3.6 million tons against a demand of 4.6 million tons. "The deficit will mostly be plugged through imports from neighboring countries," Kioko said.

XINHUA