The agriculture sector has registered a sluggish growth this year, contracting to 4.1 per cent in the second quarter compared to 6.5 per cent the sector recorded during the same period last year.
This was mainly attributed to delayed long rains that curtailed production.
The sector was also hit by fluctuating commodity prices which have affected tea and coffee earnings.
This caused an uproar among farmers who disputed low bonuses announced by the Kenya Tea Development Agency.
Farmers were paid an accumulative 28 billion shillings down from 44 billion shillings the previous year.
The October announcement by KTDA saw bonus dropped by 25 per cent.
Farmers were paid an average of Kshs 41.27 per kilo of green leaf tea.
This on the backdrop of production which surged to 481 million kilos in 2019 from 477 million kilos last year.
For years now maize continues to dominate headlines, especially during the dry season when Kenya’s staple food reserve starts to dwindle.
This year it was no different as Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri differed sharply with Strategic Food Reserve Chair Noah Wekesa on the number of bags to be imported to fill the then deficit.
Wekesa was adamant that the country only needed to import 2 million bags while Kiunjuri estimated 12 million bags of maize were needed to subsidize maize flour prices in the country.
Wekesa sentiments were echoed by a section of rift valley MPs who castigated the government for purchasing maize from local farmers at a lower price making it hard for them to break even.
In a bid to streamline the National Cereals and Produce Board operations and avert frequent maize scandals that have affected the crop production the government is contemplating commercialization of the board for efficiency.
To close off an eventful year for the agriculture sector the Kenya Bureau of Standards was forced to cancel licenses of 5 maize flour brands.
Dola, kifaru starehe 210 and jembe after the Bureau claimed the brands had higher levels of aflatoxin than the maximum limit allowed.
However, Dola maize flour brand manufactured by Kitui Flour Mills limited and the Kifaru brand manufactured by Alpha Grain Millers limited, were allowed back to the shelves.
Nuteez peanut butter and Zesta brand also suffered the same fate after KEBS gave the two brands a clean bill of health.
The potato sector was among the few bright spots in the agriculture sector after the law that requires potatoes to be packaged in not more than 50 kgs bag came into effect in Augusts this year following a long protracted legal battle between traders and the government.
Among other penalties, the law will see offenders fined 500,000 shillings or face a 1-year jail term, as the government seeks to protect farmers from exploitation from middlemen in the potato sector.
Still, on reduced earnings, milk farmers felt hard done for after milk prices reduced to an average of 25 shillings per litre across the country down from 35 shillings the previous year.
This despite milk retail price remaining constant at an average of 50 shillings per half a litre.
Farmers and key players in the dairy industry are blaming the reduced prices on the importation of cheap milk products from the East Africa market where the cost of production is 10 shillings cheaper than Kenya.
This has prompted trade ministry to send out a delegation to Uganda to validate the country’s sources of milk.
Kenyan officials raised the red flag when Ugandan milk imports drastically rose from 1.4 billion shillings in 2016 to 9.7 billion shillings last year.
This article was first published on KBC Online