Treasury is betting big on agriculture to steer post-pandemic recovery

As many sectors of Kenya’s economy were declining thanks to  Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing containment measures last year, the agriculture segment defied all odds posting 6.4 per cent growth in the second quarter compared to a 2.9 per cent jump in the same period in 2019. 

This growth was attributable to rise in tea production, cane deliveries, milk intake as well as the exports of fruits.

The Agricultural sector contributed a growth of 1.5 percentage points in Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the second quarter of 2020 compared to 0.7 percentage points over the corresponding period in 2019.

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Kenya’s tea exports to the UK increased by 2.8 per cent in September last year. In contrast, the country’s imports contracted by 7.3 per cent last year largely due to a reduction in the volume of oil imports and a decline in the value of imported manufactured goods.

To strengthen economic resilience, Kenya’s Post-Covid-19 economic recovery strategy (ERS) seeks to revamp domestic supply and value chains by supporting the agricultural sector through extension services, buildup of buffer stocks during good harvests, and promotion of value addition to enhance the longevity of perishable products.

The plan, which is contained in the country’s 2021/22 Budget proposals, also seeks to motivate local manufacturers to produce goods and support farmers in Kenya by enhancing the production of cash crops that are currently imported such as sugarcane, wheat, rice and cotton.

The recovery plan also seeks to empower the youth by turning them from wage earners to owners of capital. One such way will be by reviewing and revving up the performance of major cash crops in Kenya through agro-processing.

Tea farmers will be provided with diversified seed varieties and while the coffee value chain will be restructured to step up productivity and boost value addition.

Livestock farmers have not been left behind as the government seeks to invest in local value addition for meat and dairy. Local value addition will also be extended to fruits, nuts and oils, as well as warehousing and cold chain sites. The recovery strategy promises the setup of aquaculture and fish feeds mills as well as fish processing industries.

In order to optimize output in the Blue Economy, the government will implement key projects such as the ongoing construction of fish markets in Mombasa and Malindi; planned construction of Shimoni mariculture centre and the completed Kiganjo Training and Marketing Outlet Centre.

The State Department of Fisheries, Aquaculture, and the Blue Economy is also expected to get more resources to turn its plans into actions.

In pursuit of food and nutrition security, the Government has been rolling out various measures such as the agricultural sector transformation and growth strategy.

Reforms in the agricultural inputs subsidy programme, expansion of irrigation schemes, large-scale production of staples, supporting smallholder farmers and promoting the use of modern farming techniques are all geared towards revitalizing the sector.

Kenya’s food security has been threatened by the locust invasion, Covid-19 pandemic and recent flooding.

To cushion farmers from these adverse effects and secure food supply chains, the government through the ESP subsidized the supply of farm inputs through the e-voucher system by targeting 200,000 small scale farmers besides expanding community household irrigation.

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