by Bedah Mengo NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
Kenya’s mostly rain-fed agriculture sector is once
again facing a major crisis as a dry spell cuts production of major crops.
Among the worst-hit are foreign exchange earners like coffee and tea, whose
production has declined significantly following the six-month drought.
The east African nation’s residents are still waiting for the long rains
season to start, over a month after they were expected to have begun.
The Meteorological Department has blamed the delay on cyclone Idai, which
devastated Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe.
For tea, multinationals located in the Rift Valley and central Kenya have
been forced to send some of their workers on leave after production of the crop
fell due to drought.
Most companies are now operating at half optimum, according to Kenya Tea
Growers Association chief executive Apollo Kiarie.
The sector employs some 50,000 workers directly and indirectly, with the
devastating effects of the drought set to be much severe if the rains do not
Kenya is among the leading producers of black tea in the world, with the
sector earning some 141 billion shillings (1.4 billion U.S. dollars) from a
record 492.9 million kg in 2018.
In February, however, the Tea Directorate projected that production would
decline this year to 416 million kg owing to the bad weather.
For coffee, the current drought worsens production drop, which has fallen
over the years from 130 million tons annually to 40 million tons, Coffee Task
Force data shows.
Production of potatoes has also been affected, with Kenya now faces a
shortage of up to 1.5 million tons, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.
Both seeds and tuber potato production have been impacted as the bulk of the
crop, which is the second staple after maize, is grown under rain in Kenyan
With rains having being scarce in October to December in 2018 and expected to
be the same in the March-May season this year, Kenya is facing a major potato
"Most farmers who grew potatoes in the October to December season did not do
very well," said Beatrice Macharia of Growth Point, an agro-consultancy.
"This year’s March to May season has already been disrupted which means most
farmers may not farm for two seasons even if the rains come, which will hit
production," she added.
Kenya produces an average of 1.5 million tons of potatoes annually, which
earn farmers 460 million dollars, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, with
2015 having been the best year with an output of 1.9 million tons.
On the other hand, for livestock, animals, mainly kept in the rangelands in
arid and semi-arid areas, are facing starvation due to lack of pasture.
Kenya’s agriculture sector employs close to 10 million people and accounts
for about 51 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), 26 percent
directly and 25 percent indirectly, through its links to other sectors,
according to the latest World Bank data.
Agriculture is also responsible for much of Kenya’s exports, at 65 percent in
"The contribution of agriculture to real GDP growth has decreased from about
23.9 percent (2008-2012) to 21.9 percent (2013-2017) due to the impact of
drought," the World Bank said in a report earlier this month.
Kenyans are already paying heavily for the weather shocks, with potato prices
Some fear that Kenya’s economic growth this year may fall short of the
earlier forecast of 6 percent due to the prolonged dry spell.
Kenya to import 200 million liters of milk
from the East Africa Community
NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya
is likely to import about 200 million liters of milk from the East Africa
Community (EAC) in 2019 in order to bridge the production deficit, the dairy
industry regulator said on Wednesday.
Margaret Kibogy, managing director of Kenya Dairy Board (KDB) told Xinhua in
Nairobi that Kenya is not itself sufficient in milk production due to rising
consumption fueled by rising incomes and urbanization.
"We typically rely on the EAC trading bloc which has a liberalized trading
regime to meet milk consumer demand," Kibogy said during the AgriFi Food Safety
Kibogy said that imports from outside the EAC economic bloc are limited to
specialized dairy products that are not available in the region in order to
cushion the local dairy sector.
According to the milk regulator, Kenya processed approximately 648 million
liters of milk in 2018.
Kibogy said that Kenya is implementing a number of measures to ensure that
annual processed milk reaches the one billion liters mark by end of 2022 in
order to stop milk imports.
She added that Kenya’s milk production increased in January compared to a
similar period last year but production has been declining since February due to
the ongoing drought.
KDB is currently training farmers on pasture conservation techniques in order
to ensure they maintain milk production despite the ongoing dry spell.
Kibogy noted that Kenya’s milk sector is susceptible to changing weather
patterns due to over reliance on rain for livestock pasture.
Kenya to strengthen food safety systems to
boost public health
NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya
plans to strengthen its food safety systems in order to boost public health,
officials said Wednesday.
Robert Kilonzo, head of food safety at ministry of health, told journalists
in Nairobi that changing food preferences as well as emerging technologies have
necessitated the modernization of the public food safety regime.
"Kenya is developing a new regulatory framework that will modernize the way
all players in the food production value chain handle food," Kilonzo said during
the AgriFi Food Safety Program forum.
AgriFi Food Safety Programme is a five year program that seeks to enhance
Kenya’s national food quality safety system.
Kilonzo said Kenya is currently developing a law that will form the Kenya
Food and Drugs Authority that will spearhead the country’s food safety
He noted that the food safety control system is undertaken through a multi-sectoral
approach and is implemented by various government ministries and regulatory
"However, the coordination mechanism among these institutions is currently
inadequate which could have an impact on food safety in the country," he added.
The ministry of health said that Kenya is prioritizing investment in the
national food safety control system to eliminate the recurrence of food borne
illnesses in the country.
Kilonzo said that there will be increased focus on food safety by having
sanitary and phyto-sanitary standards being adopted by value chain actors in
He observed that the bulk of players along the food chain have not
established traceability systems in their operations.