Drought slowed down growth of agricultural sector last year

KTN News reporter Ibrahim Karanja inspected a cow's carcass which died due to the ravaging drought at Naudo in Tiaty, Baringo County on March 17, 2022. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Agriculture declined by 0.2 per cent last year, the only sector that did not record growth as Kenya’s economy rebounded to grow at 7.5 per cent, according to the Economic Survey 2022.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) said Thursday that the overall economic expansion was largely boosted by the easing of Covid-19 restrictions which helped recovery in key sectors with exception of agriculture.

“Agriculture sector did not record growth last year, according to the survey. All the economic activities registered positive growth other than agriculture,” said KNBS Director General Macdonald Obudho.

This, he said, largely arose from the poor rainfall experienced during the long rains season between March and May. He said the rains were inconsistent, not well distributed or inadequate. Crops that were particularly affected included tea, coffee, maize and wheat, which recorded negative growth.

“The same applies to the short rains in October, November and December, which again were not satisfactory,” said Mr Obudho.

The 2022 Economic Survey shows that horticulture was Kenya’s biggest export earner in 2021 at Sh165.7b. Other export earners included tea at Sh130.9b, textile at Sh42.7b and coffee at 26.1b.

“Cut flowers did very well after Covid-19 and also sugarcane had good improvement. Rice, which thrives under irrigation was not affected, and it recorded a growth of 2.8 per cent,” Mr Obudho said.

In 2020, agriculture was one of the sectors that boosted the economy.

Treasury and Planning Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani said the agriculture sector recorded mixed performance recording a contraction of 0.1 per cent in 2021, compared to a more impressive growth of 5.2 per cent in 2022.

“When all sectors failed to show any signs of growth, agriculture stood out with a growth of 5.2 per cent in 2020, but conversely when other sectors were doing well, agriculture did poorly and there are great lessons we need to learn from here,” he said.

“When rain fails, then agriculture fails. That is a warning sign to the country, it is high time we move from rain-fed agriculture to irrigation.

“Maybe in the report we will see sectors that depended on irrigation did very well, like cut flowers and rice, recorded a positive growth while maize and wheat, coffee and tea that are rain-fed did poorly.”

Mr Yatani said to support the agriculture sector, the government in 2020 initiated a stimulus programme by supplying farm inputs through e-vouchers to about 200 small-scale farmers. In addition, the government-supported flower and horticulture producers to continue accessing the international market, noting that the number of flights in and out of the country were reduced.

The government has targeted investments in irrigation to reduce dependency on rain-fed agriculture, while increasing land under crop production.

“Agriculture is the lifeline and backbone of the economy of this country where food security as the most basic of all life support becomes quite essential, it is high time we balance rainfall and irrigation due to climate change,” Mr Yatani said.

Much as there was low productivity for a number of crops, the value of marketed production went up. Overall increase of marketed agricultural value production was 4.3 per cent that included commodities such as tea, coffee and milk. Coffee sales increased from Sh10.8 billion in 2020 to Sh18.6 billion in 2021 while tea rose to Sh126.1 billion from Sh122.2 billion. Value of sugarcane increased from Sh25.2 billion in 2020 to Sh28.4 billion in 2021.

Value of marketed milk increased by 22.7 per cent to Sh33.7 billion in 2021, but maize declined by 16.7 per cent to Sh6.9 billion in 2021.

On output, the volume of fish increased by 8.2 per cent to 163,600 tonnes in 2021. Forest cover also grew by 1.5 per cent to stand at 0.15 million hectares.

The survey found that most parts of the country experienced depressed long and short rains.

According to the National Drought Early Warning Bulletin (April 2022), the drought situation continues to worsen in 16 of the 23 arid and semi-arid counties.

This is attributed to the poor performance of the 2021 short rains coupled with previous two failed consecutive seasons, and late onset of the 2022 long rains.

The seven counties of Marsabit, Mandera, Wajir, Samburu, Isiolo, Baringo and Turkana are in alarm drought phase while Garissa, Kilifi, Kitui, Kwale, Laikipia, Lamu, Meru (North), Nyeri (Kieni) and West Pokot are in alert drought phase.

Six counties - Kajiado, Narok, Makueni, Taita Taveta, Embu (Mbeere) and Tana River - are in normal drought phase.

According to the Economic Survey, rain-fed farming accounted for 83.2 per cent of crop production in commercial farms. Crops done under irrigation accounted for 14 per cent and partially irrigated 3.7 per cent.

On dairy production, zero grazing accounted for 37.8 per cent, rotational grazing 19 per cent, ranching 16.4 per cent and feed lots one per cent.

Agriculture Principal Secretary Francis Owino said agriculture is the largest contributor to the economy, with average annual gross domestic product contribution of 25 to 28 per cent.

“The role of data includes supporting evidence-based decisions, formulation of informed policies, tracking and reporting on priority agricultural sector impact and outcome indicators, monitoring and management of food and nutrition,” he said.

In 2019, following the advice of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, Kenya inserted an agricultural module in the population census.

This was to enable the country get basic agricultural information to the household-based information, Dr Owino said.

In 2020, the Ministry of Agriculture and KNBS undertook a census of large commercial farms including specialty farms that do not belong to the farming households category.


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