Farmers have been asked to join cooperatives to boost their chances of accessing credit facilities to expand their agribusinesses.
Agriculture and Livestock Development Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi said the government is determined to empower farmers to increase food production through the availability of loans and subsidies.
He was speaking in Embu County during a pre-Madaraka Day expo-themed ‘Devolution and Agriculture,’ where he participated in a panel discussion moderated by Embu Governor Cecily Mbarire. Other leaders in the panel were Council of Governors chairperson Anne Waiguru, Attorney General Justin Muturi and Embu Senator Alexander Mundige.
“Our engagement with farmers across the different value chains has revealed the existence of challenges such as long queues at distribution points of farm inputs, post-harvest losses, and poor prices among other issues we are keen on addressing,” Linturi said.
The CS observed the government was in discussions on how to enhance trade with other countries, noting that a first consignment of Kenyan pineapples will be exported to Israel on June 5, 2023.
He also revealed that the government is in the process of firming up a commercial agreement with Pakistan to create a market for mangoes. “We noticed that when Pakistani mangoes are out of season, our local produce is in peak season and there is an opportunity to sell the surplus,” said Linturi.
He noted that the country has the capacity to export fresh produce but value addition will increase the shelf-life of products. Linturi added that the State will provide Sh25 million per ward to enable farmers to undertake agricultural value chains specific to their wards.
On tea, Linturi promised tea farmers the highest-ever paid tea bonus owing to interventions by the government in cutting production costs through subsidised fertiliser and management costs.
“We will ensure a timely disbursement of fertiliser that will cost less than Sh3,000. This will boost farmer’s earnings this year,” the CS said.
He revealed that the government will be supporting 12 tea factories in the installation of orthodox tea machines that will see farmers triple their benefits since it has a higher demand in the world market. “Orthodox tea will be a game changer in the tea sector as it earns three times more than black tea,” Linturi said.
Waiguru called for enhanced quality management and control of agricultural produce to enable them to fetch better returns for farmers.
She said besides managing and controlling the quality of produce, farmers must also comply with the laid down food safety standards, especially in the international markets.
Waiguru was responding to a question from Manyatta MP Gitonga Mukunji, who was seeking to understand how Kirinyaga coffee was able to fetch high prices for the farmers.
“The secret to our farmers fetching good prices for their produce is having a good working relationship between the county government and the farmers to ensure that the latter are constantly educated on good agricultural practices that ensure quantity and quality production,” the governor said.
She said her county has managed to get on the world map for producing some of the world’s best speciality coffees, citing Kii coffee factory under Rung’eto Farmers’ Cooperative Society that had its AA-grade of unroasted coffee sold at Sh1,393 per Kg ($14), recording the highest price in the Kenyan market for the past five years.
“We have an elaborate extension services network that educates farmers on agricultural production ranging from land preparation, planting, use of herbicides, harvesting and post-harvest management that include value addition or processing where necessary,” the governor said.
Embu Governor Cecily Mbarire said her administration will form partnerships with other counties and the State to support farmers in enhancing the production, processing and marketing of their produce.
She neighbouring counties will partner so that each devolved unit establishes a factory that can serve other counties and vice versa.
Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) board member of zone six Enos Njeru appealed to the government to set up a tea packaging factory in Mt Kenya to reduce the cost of value addition since the nearest is in Kericho.
Njeru pointed said the rise in lending rates by the Central Bank had negatively impacted the borrowing rates of tea farmers.