There is sufficient food supply in the country despite the Coronavirus pandemic. The Minister of Agriculture Peter Munya has assured Kenyans. Panic buying would create an unwarranted shock in the market pushing the cost of food up he says and advised Kenyans against it.
“We will be closely monitoring the cost of food across the country and taking stern measures against traders who create artificial price inflation on food and agriculture inputs. I would like to assure Kenyans that the government is putting in place the necessary mechanisms to avert potential food shortages. Collaboratively, the National and County Governments are working together to ensure that the agricultural sector continues its operations and that food is available, accessible, affordable and safe for all Kenyan households. The Government has constituted a COVID-19 County Coordination and Food Security Committee comprised of the key sector Ministries and Council of Governors under my Chairmanship,” says Munya.
The CS, however, says that the Covid-19 pandemic is having an impact in the agricultural sector and particularly in the fresh produce industry. This impact has been occasioned by the lockdown in most countries and the collapse of prices at the auction. “Fresh produce is accumulating at farms particularly those meant for the export market. Due to the lockdown in most countries in Europe, flower farms have lost over 70% of their income over the last month. Vegetables and fruits markets remain with minimal activities as exporters are shipping only 25-30% of their normal capacity and many contracted out-grower farmers have reported losses due to non-collection of their produce from their farms,” says the CS
Munya says the government is aware of the potential threat Covid-19 poses to agriculture workforces’ and farmers’ safety and health
On the ongoing curfew and restrictions on movement, the CS notes they have caused a strain in some areas on farmers’ ability to access markets and to buy inputs and sell products. He, however, calls on farmers to keep producing saying the government will protect the sector. The government is working round the clock to minimize disruptions to the food chain he says and they have put in place a COVID-19 Food Security War Room to swiftly address any emerging issues. There have been cases of food transporters complaining of harassment by police officers despite being exempted from movement restrictions. Munya says they have agreed with the Ministry of Interior that farm produce should be transported any time whether during the day or at night. People who work in big farms will also be free to go to work with the CS saying that there were reports that some administrators were chasing them away.
“The Government is, therefore, calling upon farmers to continue production for food security of the country and to other value chain actors to play their part. In order to avoid food shortages, it is imperative that we keep the food supply chains going. The supply of staple commodities must function well, and farm, livestock and fish production inputs and produce need to be transported to where they are needed most. We are working closely with stakeholders to urgently strike a balance between keeping production going and protecting all actors along the agricultural value chain. We shall be releasing guidelines to counties, food processors, transporters, farmers, input suppliers, veterinary practitioners and other value chain actors including the ‘mama mbogas’ operating across the country on how to conduct their business while ensuring their safety and that of their customers,” opines the CS.
The CS promises that the government will facilitate farmers to access affordable inputs and extension support. He says fertilizers at affordable prices through KNTC and NCPB stores across the country have been provided.
“I call on Agro-dealers and transporters to be even more diligent in supporting farmers during this planting season and to take the COVID-19 safety precautions at their workplaces in compliance with the Ministry of Health and World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines.
The Government is putting in place mechanisms to support all players in the agriculture sector to continue with their operations. However, they have to observe the Government’s curfew rules and the Ministry of Health guidelines. Let farmers continue with their farming activities, let agro-dealers continue serving farmers, let agro-processors continue processing, let transporters of food and agricultural produce continue with their operations. Veterinary service providers are also essential service providers. We want to emphasize that the Agriculture Value Chain must continue to operate and will be facilitated to function by the Government,” says Munya.