•Ruto who was speaking during a church service in Kakamega on Sunday said his visit to India three months ago had netted Sh15 billion for mechanisation of farming in the country
•The President disclosed that Sh10 billion will be channeled to the Agricultural Finance Corporation to offer cheap loans to farmers
President William Ruto has called on governors to work with the Ministry of Agriculture to ensure they have access to tractors as farmers in the country's grain basket prepare for the planting season.
Speaking during a church service in Kakamega on Sunday, he said his visit to India three months ago had netted Sh15 billion for mechanisation of farming in the country in an effort to cut on food imports.
Kenya’s food import bill increased by 50 per cent in the first seven months of 2023 as traders and manufacturers took advantage of a duty-free importation window issued in January to plug the food deficit.
The latest data from Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows the value of food and beverage imports between January and July hit a six-year high of Sh199.8 billion in 2023.
This is Sh66.5 billion or 50 per cent more than an import value of Sh133.3 billion during the same period in 2022, a factor worsened by a cut in local production due to the prolonged drought the country witnessed last year and rolled over to early 2023.
The President disclosed that Sh10 billion will be channeled to the Agricultural Finance Corporation (AFC) to offer cheap loans to farmers.
The corporation is expected to assist in the development of Agriculture and industries by making loans to farmers, co-operative societies, incorporated Corporation representatives, private companies, public bodies, local authorities and other persons engaging in agriculture or agricultural industries.
Ruto noted that mechanisation was the only way to increase food production and in turn limit imports.
He noted that the country uses a tune of Sh5000 billion annually to import food which include maize, rice, wheat, edible oil and sugar despite having a huge agricultural potential.
"We have agreed that out of the Sh15 billion, we will direct Sh10 billion to Agricultural Finance Corporation so that farmers can get funds to buy fertiliser, seeds and seasonal credit at low interest rates," Ruto said.
He disclosed that the loans will be extended to the farmers at the rate of 7 per cent, which he said, will be easier for them to repay.
The President acknowledged that the agriculture sector has been faced with a myriad of challenges and reiterated the government's commitment to streamline the sector.
For instance, he noted that the issues which were threatening the operations at KCC had been resolved, with the farmers expected to get better payment rates beginning March 1.
He said the farmers will now be getting Sh50 per litre of milk they supply to KCC, up from Sh30 they have been getting.
"Farmers who are important are paid Sh30 per litre, consumers pay Sh120 for the same in shops; this mathematics is not making sense," he said.
"Who is this person in the middle and what are they doing there because they are neither milking nor feeding the cow, they are just people with papers and deceit," the President said.
He further noted that the government will work with farmers in the food generating counties to ensure more productivity.
This, he said, will include increasing the supply of subsidised fertilizer to ensure more Kenyans even in the remote villages have access.
Ruto said the government this year had ordered seven million bags, up from four million delivered to farmers last year.
Some of the areas the head of state has listed as having a huge potential in contributing to the country's food basket include Kakamega, Bungoma, Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, Nandi and the lake region.
"I am a farmer so I urge all farmers in the country especially those producing food crops that we will hold your hand to be able to produce enough food for our country," Ruto said.
Early this month, he directed New Kenya Cooperative Creameries to increase farmers' milk prices.
Speaking during the inauguration of the upgraded New KCC in Nyahururu on January 10, Ruto said the prices of milk should be constant regardless of the season.