Economic Survey: How sector blossomed to give limping economy needed push

Isabella Kiplagat a pyrethrum farmer. Earnings from dry pyrethrum flowers more than doubled from Sh236.0 million in 2022 to Sh512.4 million in 2023. [Christopher Kipsang, Standard]

Kenya’s agriculture sector powered the nation’s economic growth to 5.6 per cent in 2023, up from 4.9 per cent in 2022, according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics’ (KNBS) Economic Survey 2024.

The KNBS survey highlights the dynamic performance of various agricultural produce.

One of the standout achievements in the report is the increase in maize production, soaring by 38.8 per cent from 34.3 million bags in 2022 to 47.6 million bags in 2023. This surge is attributed to favourable weather conditions and enhanced fertiliser application strategies. 

Maize plantation in Uasin Gishu County on May,31,2023. [Christopher Kipsang, Standard]

“Production of maize increased by 38.8 per cent from 34.3 million bags in 2022 to 47.6 million bags in 2023. This is partly attributed to favourable weather conditions with above-average rainfall and increased application of fertiliser in 2023,” the report states. 

Similarly, beans, potatoes, and sorghum witnessed substantial growth rates of 15.7 per cent, 29.4 per cent, and 72.2 per cent, respectively, underscoring the sector’s robust resurgence.

The report also delves into the significance of market dynamics. Between March 2022 and March 2023, maize, potatoes, and cabbages experienced significant price hikes of 69.0 per cent, 63.3 per cent, and 50.2 per cent, respectively. Conversely, finger millet prices saw a modest increase of 7.3 per cent. September 2023 witnessed a fluctuation in prices, with beans, cabbages, and potatoes observing notable increases while maize prices experienced a slight dip. 

Sammy Kungu at his Potato farm in Kinangop, Nyandarua county. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Beyond the area of grains and tubers, the tea industry also witnessed encouraging developments. The area under tea cultivation expanded by 0.9 percent, with total production surging by 6.6 percent.

“During the year under review, the area under tea increased by 0.9 per cent to 227.8 thousand hectares from 225.8 thousand hectares in 2022. In 2023, total production of green leaf from all growers recorded an increase of 6.6 percent from 2,418.2 thousand tonnes in 2022 to 2,577.8 thousand tonnes in 2023,” the report reads.

“Green leaf production from smallholders increased by 2.1 percent, while production from estates rose by 11.3 percent from 1,185.1 thousand tonnes in 2022 to 1,318.9 thousand tonnes in 2023. The total quantity of processed tea increased by 6.6 percent to 570.3 thousand tonnes from 535.0 thousand tonnes in 2022.”

Notably, the production of dry pyrethrum flowers skyrocketed by a staggering 78.0 percent, accompanied by a 22.0 percent rise in average prices. This growth translated into an increase in earnings, exemplifying the potential for diversified agricultural ventures.

“Earnings from dry pyrethrum flowers more than doubled from Sh236.0 million in 2022 to Sh512.4 million in 2023. This was attributed to higher production coupled with higher prices for the pyrethrum flowers,” the report reads. 

Isabella Kiplagat a pyrethrum farmer at her farm in Koisungur village Keiyo North, Elgeyo Marakwet County On October 13, 2023. [Christopher Kipsang, Standard]

Pyrethrum is grown in 18 counties, with Nakuru, Nyandarua, and West Pokot emerging as the main producers of the cash crop once christened the ‘White gold of Kenya.’ The crop is also grown in Uasin Gishu, Kericho, Kisii, Kiambu, Narok, Nyamira, Nyeri, Baringo, Nandi, Meru, Embu, and Murang’a, among other counties.

In 2023, the export earnings from fresh horticultural produce saw a notable increase of 4.5 per cent, rising from Sh147.1 billion in 2022 to Sh153.7 billion. The volume of these exports also grew significantly, increasing by 9.9 percent from 391.5 thousand tonnes in 2022 to 430.2 thousand tonnes in 2023.

The export of cut flowers continued to thrive, with earnings growing by 3.2 percent from Sh104.3 billion in 2022 to Sh107.6 billion in 2023. High international demand and prices drove earnings from fresh vegetables up by 2.8 percent, from Sh23.2 billion to Sh23.8 billion.

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