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Agriculture sector yet to fully recover from Covid effects

Snow-peas farmers in Kinangop, Nyandarua County, tend their crops ahead of harvesting amid concern over stringent export rules to the EU. [Antony Gitonga, Standard]

A farmers federation has predicted that it would take a little longer for the agriculture sector to recover from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Eastern Africa Farmers Federation (EAFF) has said the sector suffered a blow when the exportation and importation of some products were banned, and borders closed to contain the spread of the disease.

Food experts who converged in Naivasha, Nakuru County, for the 5th EAFF annual conference at the weekend said the situation was worsened by a rise in post-harvest losses and climate change.

They predicted that food export from Africa would rise from Sh4.4 trillion to Sh11 trillion in the next ten years.

The delegates said lack of support by governments towards the agriculture sector was the main challenge facing food export.

EAFF President Elizabeth Nsimadala said exports were the most affected at the height of the pandemic, which left farmers counting losses running into millions of shillings.

She noted that the agriculture sector lost at least 70 per cent of its revenue to the pandemic, with 40 per cent related to post-harvest losses.

Nsimadala identified coffee, milk, flowers, fisheries, fruits, and beef as the most affected.

“There were long queues on the borders leading to loss of products. The flights were also banned, affecting the importation of farm inputs and products,” she said.

Nsimadala also identified climate change as another challenge currently facing the agriculture sector.

“We have seen an increase in cases of insects and diseases in crops,” she said.

Stephen Muchiri, the CEO of the federation, said the horticulture sector was the most affected by the pandemic.

He said the full effects of the pandemic were yet to be felt. He challenged governments to support farmers through subsidies.

“Currently, there is a challenge in eggs and maize imports, and this can be resolved through sharing of information since we believe the demand for the products is still unmet,” he said.

Muchiri said uncontrolled importation of rice and maize was the biggest challenge, with traders taking advantage of duty waiver by the government to dump the products into the market. “It is time that the government protected its farmers.”

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