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Small-scale farmers given Sh6b for inputs, irrigation

By Wainaina Wambu | June 12th 2020

The government has set aside Sh6.5 billion to assist small-scale farmers to access farm inputs and boost irrigation methods.

Presenting the 2020/21 Budget statement yesterday, Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani said flower and horticultural farmers would receive Sh1.5 billion to access international markets amid low demand because of global restrictions to curb the spread of Covid-19 pandemic.

Yatani said the funds would cushion farmers and the agriculture sector hard hit by the effects of the virus, especially horticulture, tea and coffee.

Of the Sh6.5 billion, the CS said Sh3 billion would subsidise farm inputs reaching 200,000 small-scale farmers, while Sh3.5 billion would be for “expanded community household irrigation”.

“These interventions will support and sustain the farming communities as they provide employment to thousands of workers in our agricultural sector,” he said.

The agricultural sector has been receiving low allocation over the years, despite being one of the biggest contributors to the country’s economy.

The sector’s growth is projected to fall this year owing to an invasion of locusts, floods and the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Budget estimates show that the Agriculture Ministry has been allocated Sh52.8 billion, up by just over Sh1 billion from Sh51.7 billion in the financial year 2019/2020.

The State Department for Crop Development and Agricultural Research will get the lion’s share, having been allocated Sh40 billion.

The department has over the years been involved in the development of genetically modified crops, including BT cotton and GMO cassava.

The agriculture sector’s growth fell by almost half to 3.6 per cent last year, from six per cent in 2018. The drop was blamed on adverse weather conditions.

The sector’s contribution to economic growth fell 0.6 per cent in the third quarter of 2019 compared to 1.3 per cent in the same period in 2018.

Tea, sugar and maize production fell by five per cent, 12.5 per cent and 10.3 per cent, respectively.

As of 2019, 2.6 million Kenyans were declared food-insecure, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

Food prices are also a source of worry for many Kenyans as they are expected to rise amid job losses due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) – a measure of the percentage change in the price of a basket of goods and services consumed by households -- rose 0.63 per cent in May.

The sector will also be impacted by punitive taxes that have been imposed, especially on once exempt farm implements such as ploughs, harrows, planters, sprayers, harvesters and balers.

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