Agriculture offered safe haven to those who lost jobs due to Covid-19
By Paul Kangethe | September 10th 2021
Agriculture, Kenya’s backbone, grew by 4.6 per cent in 2020 compared to a 2.3 per cent growth the previous year, showed the Economic Survey 2021.
This is as thousands of Kenyans turned to the farms for extra income owing to Covid-19 induced job losses with agriculture remaining the dominant sector in Kenya’s economy accounting for 23 per cent.
“The agriculture sector grew by 4.6 per cent in 2020 compared to a revised growth of 2.3 per cent in 2019. This was on account of favorable weather conditions in 2020 which improved production of food crops such as beans, rice, sorghum and millet and, livestock and related products such as milk and meat,” said Treasury CS Ukur Yatani while releasing the statistics yesterday.
In the review period, agricultural industry related activities accounted for 17.1 per cent of the total contribution in economic growth. However, Treasury forecast that growth would dip in the future owing to poor rainfall this year.
“The country has so far experienced below normal rainfall in the first half of 2021. However, the weather forecast points to the possibility of the short rains being better in most parts of the country later in the year. Output of the agriculture sector, which is largely rain fed, is therefore likely to be lower than the 2020 level,” said the data released by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS).
Tea, one of Kenya’s top foreign exchange earners, recorded a 24.1 per cent increase in production to 569.5 thousand tonnes in 2020 while the volume of cane in tonnes deliveries increased from 4.4 million in 2019 to 6 million in 2020.
Horticultural produce increased by 3.9 per cent to stand at Sh150.2 billion in 2020, mainly attributed to better international export prices for the review period. Milk production also increased from 668 million litres in 2019 to 682 million in 2020.
Dr Timothy Njagi, a Research Fellow with Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development which is under the Department of Extension and Research of Egerton University noted that agriculture offered a safe haven to those who lost jobs due to COVID-19.
“Production of agricultural commodities went up because many people and students went to rural areas when Covid-19 hit. There is a great room for value addition so that the producers can fetch a higher income’’, said Dr. Njagi
On the dwindling rainfall amounts, Dr Njagi said the farmers require agricultural advisory on top of the weather forecast the Meteorological department offers. This will equip farmers with practical information on when to plant and what to plant so as to guarantee them a harvest.
Dr Njagi added that there is need to upscale crop and livestock insurance which will go a long way in cautioning farmers against losses due to crop failure and draught. The private sector can also invest in this space and secure more livelihoods.
Domestically, oil prices have been rising significantly in response to the global price rise. On average, the international oil prices are likely to be higher. Effectively then, oil prices in Kenya will probably remain high and therefore counterproductive to economic growth. This will reduce the farmers’ margins due to an increase in cost of production resulting from high prices of diesel that is used by tractors and generators that drive farm machinery and equipment.
The global economic growth is expected to rebound to 5.6 per cent in 2021. Consequently, the volume of world merchandise trade is projected to expand by 8.0 per cent in 2021 after a contraction of 5.3 per cent in 2020.
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