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Ruto defends his trips out of the country, assures economy stable

President William Ruto during the 40th Anniversary of Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) Diocese Of Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County on October 29, 2023. [PCS]

President William Ruto has defended his numerous trips abroad since he assumed office last year.

Speaking during celebrations to mark the 40th anniversary since the establishment of the Anglican Church of Kenya Eldoret Diocese, Ruto took a swipe at critics who have raised eyebrows over his frequent trips.

He stated that his frequent trips abroad are purely for the economic benefit of the country.

"You have heard some people politic about my trips abroad. I am the chief agent and ambassador of this country. That is my job, and I am doing so to seek opportunities for Kenyans and to plan how this country moves forward," Ruto said.

He assured Kenyans that although there were still many economic challenges facing the country, he would stabilise things.

"Don't be afraid, this country is going to change. I promise you," the president said.

The Head of State also assured the region's farmers of the government's support through the provision of subsidised farm inputs towards the attainment of food security.

He noted that the country got a bumper harvest this season, with an increase in production of between 12 and 15 million bags of maize, owing to subsidised fertilisers.

The president announced the government would stop the importation of maize from 2025.

He said instead, the focus will be to empower farmers to produce more.

He regretted that the country spends Sh500 billion to import foods, including maize and edible oils, which can be produced locally.

He added that lowering the cost of fertiliser further to Sh2,500 per 50kg bag will result in increased production.

"As you have worked harder this year by increasing 200 production hectares, I urge you (maize farmers) to work even better next planting season. We can double our production by using the correct seeds and applying enough fertiliser. Fertiliser is now affordable, so do not limit yourselves," Ruto advised.

He added: "We want to stop importing maize. Next year should be the last year that we import maize. From 2025, we should be self-reliant and food secure."

The head of state said the Sh500 billion used to import food should be saved for other important projects.

He pointed to the need to utilise public land, like thousands of acres of land owned by prisons, NYS and the military, which lie idle to produce food.

"Ngeria Prison in Uasin Gishu, for instance, has idle land that is sometimes hired out. NYS and military lands should also be put into proper use. We will farm on these lands to produce more food," he said.

On the issue of aflatoxin levels in cereals, the president said he will order the opening of NCPB stores so that farmers can benefit from their dryers.

He promised that the cost of drying maize will also be reduced from Sh300 to Sh70 per 90kg bag.

"We do not want to see our farmers drying their maize by the roadside. We will open the NCPB stores and reduce the price of drying maize. With the warehouse receipt system in place, farmers can also store their produce as they seek better markets for their produce if they are not interested in selling to the NCPB," said Ruto.

The president said farmers have a right to sell their produce to anyone.

"Farmers can choose where to sell their produce. No one is forced to sell to the NCPB. We encourage open markets.

"What we detest is exploitation of farmers," Ruto said.

He added that 100 mobile dryers have been bought for farmers to dry their produce.

Through registration of farmers and delivery of farm inputs directly to farmers, the President said that his government has been able to deal with cartels who make it hectic for farmers to get subsidized fertilizers at the set price.

On dairy farming, Ruto said talks are ongoing to ensure farmers get their rightful share.

"We will deal firmly and decisively on matters of agriculture since it is indeed the backbone of our nation," he assured.

Ruto noted that China is set to open its markets for horticultural produce from the country, including avocadoes, macadamia and tea leaves.

The president continued to laud his newly launched Universal Health Care initiative, stating that it will be a game changer in ensuring Kenyans access to medication.

Transport Cabinet Secretary Kipchumba Murkomen said farmers should embrace crop diversification.

He said that since cargo operations resumed at the Eldoret International Airport, cargo planes land with tonnes of cargo but leave empty.

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