President Ruto throws weight behind agriculture

Says it will bring about Kenya’s economic liberation.

In Summary

•This will help in solving food crisis and boost income for farmers.

•local fertilizer manufacturing industries will be established in the country.

A farmer goes through his maize plantation/
MODIFIED FOOD: A farmer goes through his maize plantation/
Image: FILE

The government has committed to invest in the agriculture sector as part of its strategy to grow the economy and address the biting food crisis in some parts of the country.

President William Ruto's administration also sees the sector as having the potential for high and quick returns on investments.

Speaking during the Mashujaa day celebrations at Uhuru Gardens in Nairobi, President  Ruto said agriculture is one of the sectors that will help in the country’s economic growth.

“It is now time to lay the foundation on the future of our nation. Agriculture as the lead sector to the economic transformation of our country is the place to start, owing to its potential for high and quick returns on investments,” Ruto said.

The president, however, pointed out that the agriculture situation in the country is wanting and that solutions need be sorted out to save the problem.

He said the food shortage witnessed in the country is due to the prolonged drought and that the government will put in place measures to do away with hunger and the dependency on rain-fed agriculture.

“We have a severe food shortage caused by the prolonged drought in the country and the larger horn of Africa region the worst in almost half a century with three years of consecutive failed rain,” he said.

The high global fertiliser prices is also a challenge for the sector, the President added.

The prices of fertilizers according to Ruto had increased to Sh 7,000.

The government has however brought this down to Sh 3,500.

For short-term measures, the government plans to increase agricultural productivity by enabling farmers get easy access to quality inputs such as seeds, fertilisers and pesticides.

In addition, it will also enable access to extension services in order to improve farmers’ farming skills for high yields that will enable their economic growth and help solve agricultural problems.

He further noted that in collaboration with the private sector and other countries in the region, local fertiliser manufacturing industries will be established to offer affordable products to farmers.

Imported fertilisers became costly to farmers in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The government plans to have fertilisers manufacturing in partnership with EAC countries . We will also work with research institutions and both public and private sectors to scale up seed multiplication for all crops,” Ruto further noted.

Meanwhile, the government is mulling over the introduction of GMO foods, with maize among the top crop.

This is part of plans to boost food production in the country and a solution to the perennial food crisis in the country.

On October 3, President Ruto lifted the ban on GMO after ten years.

This was after a recommendation of the task force to review matters relating to genetically modified foods and food safety.

The ban prohibited the open cultivation of genetically modified crops and the importation of food crops and animal feeds produced through biotechnology innovations.

This followed authorisation for open cultivation and importation of white GMO maize.

According to the Central Bank, the agriculture sector continues to play a critical role in Kenya’s economy, accounting for 20 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The sector also employs over 40 per cent of the total population and more than 70 per cent of the rural populace and about 25 per cent of the annual workforce.

Transport costs, weather, and input costs are some of the challenges affecting agricultural production in the country, the CBK report notes.

Statistics show that in 2021, the value added by the agriculture sector to the GDP in Kenya reached Sh2.7 trillion while its contribution to the economy increased by roughly 12 per cent compared to the previous year.

The country’s major agricultural exports are tea, coffee, cut flowers, and vegetables.

On climate ,Kenya’s high rainfall areas constitute about 10 per cent of Kenya’s arable land and produce70 per cent of its national commercial agricultural output.

On the other hand, farmers in semi-arid regions produce about 20 per cent of the output while the arid regions account for the remaining 10 per cent of the output.

The Economic Survey 2022 indicates agriculture remained the dorminant sector, accounting for about 22.4 per cent of the overall GDP in 2021. 

The sector recorded mixed performance, contracting by 0.1 per cent in 2021 compared to a growth of 5.2 per cent in 2020.

The observed performance was attributed to erratic and poorly distributed long rains as well as inadequate short rains.

Aggregate maize production decreased from 42.1 million bags in 2020 to 36.7 million bags in 2021.

Coffee production declined by 6.0 per cent  in 2019/20.

Tea production declined by 5.6 per cent.

However, the volume of sugar cane deliveries increased from 6.8 million tonnes in 2020 to 7.8 million tonnes in 2021, largely attributed to improved cane availability in most of the sugar zones.

The volume of horticultural exports increased by 4.5 per cent from 3.1 million tonnes in 2020 to 4 million tonnes in 2021.

During the review period, the volume of marketed milk increased by 26.6 per cent from 682.3 million litres in 2020 to 801.9 million litres.

Overall value of marketed agricultural production increased by 4.3 per cent from Sh505.3 billion in 2020 to  Sh527.0 billion in 2021.

WATCH: The latest videos from the Star