NAIROBI, November 10 – The Ministries in the agricultural related sector have developed a draft Bill proposing the formation of an Agricultural Development Fund that is targeted to increase budgetary allocations for the sector to 10 percent.
Agriculture Minister William Ruto said the current allocation of 4.5 percent is too low for a sector that is the backbone of the country’s economy.
“African governments including our President in 2003 in Maputo committed themselves to increasing their budgetary allocation to agriculture to 10 percent, today we only have 4.5 percent to be shared between seven ministries which does not demonstrate our commitment to enhancing investment and funding to agriculture as a means of growing our own economy,” Ruto said.
The 4.5 percent budgetary allocation is being shared between the Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries, Co-operatives, Water and Irrigation and Environment and Mineral Resources ministries.
He said the draft Bill is proposing the ring –fencing of additional 4.5 percent budgetary allocations by using the agricultural development fund as another mechanism of enhancing funding for the agricultural sector.
Speaking during the 2nd National Agricultural Sector Conference, Mr Ruto said the draft Bill is work in progress and should be ready for cabinet presentation soon.
He stated this year’s conference will among other things address issues of improvement of agricultural production, expanding access to markets and generally revitalisation of the sector.
“This is a sector that affects more than 80 percent of the country’s population both directly and indirectly and therefore needs to be given due attention,” the minister emphasised.
Meanwhile, Mr Ruto has denied that there is a shortage of maize in the country as some parties in the sector may have been implying.
Mr Ruto described the current tussle over the produce as dispute over pricing of maize between farmers and millers which the government has guaranteed at a price of Sh1700 per bag.
“The issue of shortage of maize is artificial in my opinion, we had a meeting with the millers last week Thursday where we agreed they will negotiate with the farmers on the prices, but we are telling the farmers not to accept a price less than Sh1700,” Mr Ruto explained.
He said farmers are currently willing to sell their maize at the price of Sh2100 per bag.
Mr Ruto said the government which had revised the prices from Sh1300 per bag to Sh1700 cannot revise the prices any higher or lower since this is the best price the National Cereals Produce Board is ready to offer.
“The maize to be bought by government at Sh1700 will be for the strategic reserve and relief food, this is a free market economy so if farmers get a better price than the Sh1700 we are offering they should go for a better price,” he said.
But we are giving them a guaranteed price as government that in the event they are not able to sell to businessmen or millers they have a buyer of last result, the government,” he said.
The minister further revealed that he had issued a gazette notice to seal borders so that no local maize is sold to neighbouring countries.
He said this should further cushion the country from a maize shortage.