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New markets to reduce waste of produce

By | May 14th 2009

By Jackson Okoth

The Government will build new agricultural wholesale markets in all major urban centres.

The initiative is expected to reduce post-harvest losses suffered by small-scale farmers, estimated at more than 40 per cent.

"Discussions are already underway between the Agriculture, Nairobi Metropolitan and Local government ministries to establish these wholesale markets, complete with cold storage and other support facilities," said Agriculture Minister William Ruto.

He made these remarks on Wednesday while opening a three-day International conference in Nairobi, drawing Africa’s leading experts on agriculture and market development.

Expert intervention

The conference is sponsored by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa and the International Livestock Research Institute with support from more than 17 organisations.

Experts are gathering in Nairobi to map out strategies to enable Africa’s smallholder farmers access the continent’s $150 billion staple food market.

With the global economy undergoing severe recession, Africa’s farmers are finding it increasingly difficult to access international markets, including its main export destinations in Europe.

The subsidies offered by developed nations to their farmers and high tariff and non-tariff barriers keep most African farmers out of lucrative international markets.

This conference is also taking place at a time when debate is ongoing at policy level, on whether to increase the producer prices to encourage farmers or lower retail prices to protect consumers.

Action needed

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"There is need for priority action to address the interests of both producers and consumers," said Ruto.

The high level discussions on how to improve market access for small-scale farmers also come in the wake of challenges facing smallholder farming.

"We should be candid enough to recommend the need for land consolidation of small holdings to make them commercially viable," said Ruto.

Available figures indicate that small-scale farmers are also net buyers of food, a clear indication of the need to re-think the concept of small-scale farming.

New research and innovations presented at this meeting will highlight strategies that could help Africa produce and sell its own food at lower cost and take advantage of new market opportunities.

To become a food bread basket with surplus for export, policies will ne needed to expand investments in rural roads, communications, farm storage, commodity exchanges and improvement in standards, experts say.

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