Vegetable and fruit farmers in Naivasha are staring at the closure of their farms following the coronavirus pandemic that has seen cargo flights to European Union countries suspended.
Already, 50 per cent of the workers have been sent home, with fears that the numbers could rise in the coming days as the pandemic continues to affect more countries.
Exports have also dropped by 50 per cent, while flight charges have tripled in the last month due to the shortage of cargo planes.
Agricultural Employers Association CEO Wesley Siele said the drop in exports had been caused by the limited movement of consumers in Europe.
Mr Siele said supermarkets in the United Kingdom, Sweden and Russia were still ordering fresh produce from the country, but getting cargo flights was a big challenge.
“People have to eat despite the pandemic and though the exports have dropped by 50 per cent, the fresh produce exporters are doing better unlike the flower farmers,” he said.
Edward Mureu, the proprietor of Naivasha-based Rubi Ranch, said the country is staring at hunger and major job losses in the coming months.
He said Kenya Airways and British Airways had cancelled all their flights to EU countries, leading to a crisis in exporting produce.
“For years, we have relied on the two airlines to export our produce and with their closure, we have moved to other carriers that are charging triple the normal prices,” he said.
Mureu added that he had already been forced to send home 50 per cent of his workforce, meaning a drop in the ranch's production.
“The demand in European countries has also dropped sharply due to lockdowns, meaning we have to reduce our production and workforce,” he said.
Mureu, who grows French beans, broccoli and baby corn, among other produce, called on the government to zero-rate farm inputs and lower the cost of electricity tariffs.
“The curfew has also affected us, as workers have to work fewer hours. We also produce for the local market, which could be affected by the current challenges,” he said.
One of the workers, Fanice Nasimiyu, said the disease had raised fear and anxiety among the workers who had no other source of livelihood.
“Our colleagues have been sent home, production has gone down due to the coronavirus crisis and we do not know the fate our jobs,” he said.