William Ruto

Deputy President William Ruto addressing a rally at Matungu Cultural Centre in Kakamega County on February 8, 2022.

| Isaac Wale | Nation Media Group

Politics of Agriculture: Azimio, Kenya Kwanza make big promises to farmers

The skyrocketing cost of food production, unemployment among the youth and unstable economy continues to dominate succession politics as contestants woo the electorates with promises to fix them if they are elected in the August General Election.

Azimio La Umoja, Kenya Kwanza and One Kenya Alliance (OKA) have a common focus on revamping the country’s economy with special emphasis on lowering food production costs by subsidizing prices of farm inputs.

The Raila Odinga-led Azimio La Umoja has assured farmers of low cost fertilizer, reduced prices for maize seeds and chemicals while guaranteeing steady market for the produce at attractive prices to overhaul agriculture as a profitable investment.

“My government will make the cost of farm inputs affordable by subsidizing productions costs-seeds, fertilizer and chemicals to control pests and diseases and ensure ready market for the produce,” said Mr Odinga when he toured Eldoret late last year.

He decried the rising fertilizer prices that have hit Sh6,000 up from Sh3,000 saying it was hurting grain farmers in the North Rift region, the country’s food basket.

The ODM leader is wooing the youth with promise of appointment to cabinet in his government and address the unemployment crisis.

“In my government, there will be the Ministry for National Youth Affairs to cater for their needs while disadvantage families will get Sh2,800 for their upkeep,” said Mr Odinga.

In what appears to be reading from the same script on agriculture matters, the Deputy President William Ruto-led Kenya Kwanza has vowed to set fertilizer prices at Sh2,700 if the movement clinches power in the August General Election.

According to ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi, one of the Kenya Kwanza partners, the high fertilizer prices was hurting farmers which might force them to reduce acreage under crop production thus threatening the country’s food security.

“Our priority is to safeguard affairs of the common man and we will ensure that a bag of fertilizer does not exceed Sh2,700,” said Mudavadi.

The Kenya Kwanza administration, he said will revamp the tea sector to the benefit of small scale farmers who will receive attractive prices for their green tea leaves.

The alliance promises to create jobs for millions of the youth while tackling poverty as a result of unstable economy.

The Kenya Kwanza alliance brings together Deputy President William Ruto’s UDA, ANC of Musalia Mudavadi and Ford-Kenya of Moses Wetang’ula.

Cereal farmers in the North Rift region have however petitioned the government to zero rate imports on farm implements to cushion them from rising production costs.

They termed the 14 percent tax imposed on farming apparatus as a major blow to a sector that forms the country’s economy and called for reforms which will be beneficial to farmers to increase productivity.

“The government imposed a 14 percent tax on farm implements needs to be reviewed to cut down on production costs. There is instead need to push for additional funds to overhaul the sector into profitable investment,” said James Kwambai, land economist and agriculture expert.

The Treasury imposed the 14 per cent Value Added Tax (VAT) on farm implements came into effect in June 2020 and affected tools such as ploughs, harrows, planters, sprayers and harvesters.

The sentiments are supported by Parliamentary Committee Chairman on Agriculture Sila Tiren who wants the government to withdraw the 14 per cent tax on farm implements arguing that it undermines efforts to increase mechanization to help lower cost of production and increase yields to empower farmers to earn profits.

“The government imposed a 14 percent tax on farm implements needs to be reviewed so that both farmers and the government benefit,” said Mr Tiren.

But agricultural experts and farmers in the Rift Valley, the country’s food basket have decried the declining trend of budget allocation to the agriculture department despite the sector contributing to 25 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) saying that the move has impacted negatively on food security.

They took issue with the allocation of Sh60 billion to agriculture in the 2021/2022 budget amounting to 3.2 percent of the total budget down from 5.5 percent five years ago and want the provision increased to 10 per cent as per the Maputo declaration which prioritized agriculture in budgetary allocation.

“Agriculture is the backbone of our economy, and there’s no way the country will attain Vision 2030 and industrialization, unless it’s allocated adequate funds,” said Mr Kipkorir Menjo, the Kenya Farmers Association director.

But the Consumers Federation of Kenya (Cofek) has blamed the skyrocketing maize flour prices to hoarding of maize by millers who purchased the produce at low cost during the harvest period.

“It is the cereal millers who are causing artificial shortage by hoarding their stocks. They must be investigated for wanting to resale their cheap stocks expensively,” appealed Stephen Mutoro, Cofek Secretary General.

“The Ministry of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Security report which showed domestic maize stock in October as 11.3 million bags should have acted on re-stocking immediately,” added Mr Mutoro.

A bag of maize is going at Sh3,200 up from 2,800 per a 90-kilogram bag while that of wheat is selling at Sh3,400 up from Sh3,100 as most farmers reserve the crop to cope with the impending shortage.

“Food shortage is unavoidable after most millers and the anticipated low yield this season caused by erratic climatic condition during the planting season,” said Jackson Kosgei from Moiben, Uasin Gishu County.

Maize flour prices have risen in most retail shops in the North Rift region with a two-kilo packet selling at Sh110 up from Sh80 a month ago.