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Agriculture remains country’s economic backbone despite dip in production

By Peter Theuri | April 29th 2020
Sammy Mandera a coffee farmer tends to his coffee trees at Misesi in Kisii County on 2/4/2019.Sammy Mandera a coffee farmer tends to his coffee trees at Misesi in Kisii County on 2/4/2019.

In a year when Kenya’s gross domestic product growth dipped, agriculture remained the dominant sector, accounting for slightly over a third of the total value of the economy in 2019.

This was despite the sector’s growth decelerating from 6.1 per cent in 2018 to 3.6 per cent. The drop came amid mixed fortunes in the sector with some crops experiencing dips in production as others showed significant positive shifts.

Among those whose production dipped were maize, tea and sugarcane.

Maize production reduced from 44.6 million bags in 2018 to 39.8 million bags in 2019, a 10.8 per cent drop for Kenya’s staple.

Tea production decreased by 6.9 per cent to 458.5 thousand tonnes in 2019, while sugarcane production shrank by 12.5 per cent to 4.6 million tonnes over the same period.

This was on the back of delayed long rains in the year. When the rains finally came, they were destructive, leading to flash flooding and on the whole hampering production.

Among the crops that showed improvement were coffee and horticultural products.

The total quantity of coffee produced increased by 8.7 per cent from 41,400 tonnes in 2018 to 45,000 tonnes in 2019.

“The export quantities of fresh horticultural quantities increased slightly by 1.8 per cent from 322,600 tonnes in 2018 to 328,300 tonnes in 2019. The quantity of formally marketed milk increased by 5.3 per cent from 634.3 million litres in 2018 to 668.2 million litres in 2019,” reads the Economic Survey 2020.  

Total paddy rice production rose by 42.6 per cent from 112,600 tonnes in 2018 to 160,600 tonnes in 2019.

The value of marketed production at current prices contracted by 6.5 per cent from Sh498.3 billion in 2018 to Sh465.7 billion in 2019.

The horticulture sub-sector has been one of the best performers in recent years, contributing substantially to the country’s revenues.

Exports of fresh produce and flowers are, however, experiencing a downturn due to the coronavirus pandemic that has shut down global markets.

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