Farmers want ban on GMO crops lifted to save 'ailing' dairy sector

The price of livestock feeds has doubled in the past two years causing some farmers to reduce their stocks or food per cow. [Antony Gitonga, Standard]

The rise in cost of raw materials has forced 50 percent of Kenya’s dairy feed manufacturers to close shop or downsize operations in the past two years, John Gathogo, Chairman Association of Kenya Feed Manufacturers, has said.

As a result, he warns, milk production could drop as livestock farmers grapple with the rising cost of livestock feeds.

Mr Gathogo noted that in the past two years, the cost of livestock feed has risen sharply, forcing livestock farmers to either reduce their stocks or cut down on feed per cow.

“The biggest challenge lies in the high cost of livestock feeds which results from equally high prices of raw materials from neighbouring countries,” he said.

Speaking after touring dairy farms in Naivasha, Gathogo petitioned the government to lift the ban on genetically modified crops because non-GMO raw materials are either too expensive or unavailable and that the only solution lay in going for GMO crops like soya and yellow maize.

“We are petitioning the government to lift the Cabinet memo of 2012 that banned GMO crops. Only this will save the livestock sector which is on its knees,” he said.

He revisited the duty waiver on raw material for livestock feed by the President last year during Mashujaa Day noting that it had failed to attract manufacturers due to the high prices.

“If the ban on GMOs is lifted, it will bring down the cost of livestock feeds by over 20 per cent and help address Kenya’s food insecurity,” he said.

Martin Gatheca who owns Naiposha Dairy Farm said that he has been forced to reduce his stock from 140 cows to 56 due to cut livestock feed costs.

Currently, a bag of dairy feed retails at Sh3,000, up from Sh1,800 when the Covid-19 pandemic led to closure of hotels and schools who were their main customers.

“I have visited several countries where farmers get subsidies from the government. The only way to save this sector is through use of GMO crops,” he said.

Njeri Gatheca, who is based at the same farm, noted that the cost of livestock feed had risen by over 50 percent in the last two years because of a global rise in raw materials for livestock feeds and noted that Kenya, like Rwanda, should embrace GMO crops.

“The viability of this sector is bleak, but things can change if we go for GMO crops which are cheap, readily available and disease free,” she said.

Njeri added that they had been forced to reduce feed intake from 7kg per cow to 2kg, which has affected milk production.

“The high cost of feed has not only affected dairy farmers but also those involved in poultry and pig rearing and hence the cry to lift the ban on GMO crops,” she said.

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