NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
Kenya has become a big market for food exports from its
neighbors as erratic rains in the east African nation hit crop
and livestock production.
Rains in the east Africa’s
biggest economy failed this season, starting in May instead of
March and have since declined in most parts of the nation,
including in breadbaskets, according to the meteorological
While this has turned to be a nightmare for Kenyan farmers,
it has become a boon for farmers in Uganda and Tanzania where
rainfall pattern was least affected this season.
According to Uganda National Meteorological Authority,
rainfall in the March-June rainy season has been above average.
The farmers in the two countries are literary feeding
Kenyans, with cities like Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu flooded
with Tanzanian and Ugandan produce.
Topping the list of produce exported to Kenya by the
neighbors are tomatoes, milk, eggs, onions, tomatoes, fruits,
beans and maize.
At Wakulima market in the capital Nairobi, tens of tons of
farm produce are delivered every day in trucks from Tanzania.
A survey at the market on Saturday indicated the major farm
produce being delivered currently from the neighboring countries
is potatoes, oranges and onions.
While produce from Uganda is shipped in through Busia and
Malaba, that from Tanzania comes through Namanga, Isebania,
Lunga Lunga and Taveta border points.
"Most of the produce being sold here currently is from
Tanzania," said Mary Wangare, a trader.
"We are getting little from our farmers because we did not
have rains for a long time, which disrupted the growing
seasons," she added.
According to her, the produce from Tanzania and Uganda is
fairly priced as compared to that from Kenya, some grown under
irrigation in the past months.
"Kenyan farmers are selling a 90kg bag of potatoes at 3,500
shillings (35 U.S. dollars) but the same bag from Tanzania is
going from 30 dollars or less," she said.
The foreign produce, according to Wangare, is also loved by
traders not only because of its affordability, but it has a
"Onions from Tanzania are better cured than those from Kenya
which makes them have a longer shelf-life preventing us from
getting losses when we buy to sell," she said.
From Uganda, Kenya mainly imports maize and poultry products
like eggs, with a 90kg bag of the grain from the country selling
at 24 dollars currently.
That produced in Kenya is going for 28 dollars in wholesale
A crate of eggs from Uganda is selling in Kenya for as low as
2 dollars, making it traders’ favorite.
Data from the East African Grain Council shows that in the
first quarter of this year, Kenya imported more than 80,000
tonnes of maize from its two neighbors, earning Ugandan and
Tanzanian farmers some 31 million dollars.
According to FarmGain Africa, bean exports through Busia
regional trade hub to Kenya average over 100 metric tonnes per
day, with a bag in Kenya going for 80 dollars.
With surge in imports, Kenyan farmers who are mainly using
irrigation are feeling the pinch as they lack market for their
produce, whose cost of production is high.
"Last month I went to sell my onions at 0.6 dollars per kilo
and found there were those from Tanzania going for 0.50 dollars
"I had no choice but to comply to dispose of the produce,"
said Bernard Kirathe, who farms under irrigation in Isinya,
Beatrice Macharia of Growth Point, an agro-consultancy, noted
that Kenyan farmers have been hard hit by erratic rains, an
effect of climate change, as compared to their neighbors in
Uganda and Tanzania.
"But the rains are not the only problem, the cost of
production in Kenya is higher due to high input prices. For
instance, Uganda offers subsidies on fertilizer and pesticides
but Kenya is taxing them making production expensive," she said.
On June 13, Kenya re-introduced 16 percent tax on fertilizer,
following a similar move in September 2018 when the government
imposed taxes on pesticides.
This would hurt farmers more, said Macharia, amid the
changing weather pattern.
Kenya will open duty free maize imports from July to curb the
current shortage of the grain that has seen prices rise 30
percent. Most the maize would come from Uganda and as far as
According to the recently released 2019 Economic Survey,
Kenya’s exports to its neighbors in the East African Community
stood at 1.29 billion dollars in 2018, down from 1.31 billion
dollars in 2017, while imports from the region rose by 12
percent to 680 million dollars.