Kisii County has for years been best known for its food production and bumper harvests, which significantly contributes to the national food basket.
However, Covid-19 has brought about a sudden change that is not only being felt by farmers, but also by consumers across the country.
The restriction of movement in major towns of Nairobi and Mombasa has forced farmers to sell their produce locally where demand is low, significantly affecting their incomes.
Whereas most parts of the country are facing a shortage in fresh produce, farmers in Kisii are staring at huge losses as they have nowhere to sell their produce.
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Wholesale traders who have been operating from large market centres and have little or no contact with farms have since retreated. The bulking centres located along major roads have since been closed in order to maintain social distancing.
“Most farmers are now doing stocking or selling their produce locally at low prices,” Norah Kemunto, a farmer at Keginga village, Nyamira County, explained.
A decline in demand for milk due to closure of schools and the hotel industry has pushed dairy farmers to the edge.
Small-scale milk traders now operate as hawkers, moving the produce from place to place as with or without a market, animals have to be milked daily.
“Schools lead in milk consumption. When they are closed, we are stuck with our milk. The cost of production was already high even when there was ready market; now we have to dig deep in our pockets to feed the animals,” James Nyaisu, a dairy farmer said.
Esther Mokeira who farms indigenous vegetables at Bomachoge in Borabu said she her vegetables have never lacked market since she started farming five years ago. Most of her clients are bulk buyers mainly from Nairobi and Mombasa.
For the last one month, she has not had the opportunity to transport the produce to major markets like Nairobi where the demand is high. Her efforts to secure a permit to transport the produce to the city have been futile.
“It has been a tough three months for us. Most of us rely entirely on our farms for survival, but this is proving hard now. We hardly get customers as we used to before corona,” Mokeira told The Standard.
Mokeira, however, believes that the government could have done better in cushioning farmers against losses.
“There is a demand for food even in Nairobi and Mombasa but we can't access the markets because of the current crisis. The closure of major markets has really affected the supply chain and the transport costs are prohibitive. We can't afford to send our products to consumers” she lamented.