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Shot in the arm for Agriculture

NAIROBI, November 11 – President Mwai Kibaki has committed to increasing budgetary allocations to agriculture-related ministries by eight percent.

This was after ministers in the sector led by Agriculture Minister William Ruto called on the Head of State to commit to the Maputo Declaration of 2003 where African Presidents pledged to raise budgetary allocations in agricultural sectors to at least 10 percent.

“Agriculture should be a profitable undertaking and we want to do it.  We want you to have a bigger share, let’s go for this eight percent of the budget, that’s fine,” President Kibaki said.

Currently the seven ministries within the agricultural sector only receive a total of 4.5 percent of budgetary allocations.

Speaking during the official opening of the on-going National Agricultural Sector conference, President Kibaki reiterated the government’s commitment to funding agriculture in the country.

The President pointed out that the country had the potential to become the grain-basket for the region and beyond. 

“Our farmers are capable of doubling productivity so that we have food security for our people and a surplus for export.  And more importantly, there is urgent need to assist farmers to form co-operatives that will enable them to engage in agro-processing in order to add value to their products and expand their income base,” President Kibaki said.

He added: “This is critical because with a contribution of 24 percent to the Gross Domestic Product worth over Sh342 billion per year, agriculture is the single most important sector to the growth of Kenya’s economy.”

The President observed that the sector generates more than 45 percent of national incomes, while contributing more than 50 percent of foreign exchange earnings.  Sixty five percent of the population living in rural areas and deriving their livelihood from farming and related enterprises. 

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“It is clear that agriculture is the main productive sector upon which the success of our Vision 2030 depends,” he emphasised. 

The President revealed that the African Development Bank and the International Fund for Agricultural Development would be investing Sh4.3 billion over the next five years to develop small-scale irrigation projects and marketing infrastructure for horticultural crops.

He urged farmers to take advantage of this investment and grow more high value crops such as flowers, soya beans, French beans, fruits, herbs and spices for sale to the regional and international markets.

The President however expressed dissatisfaction with the progress made so far in increasing the productivity of cotton and pyrethrum.  He said that despite the government injecting some Sh250 million annually in the crops, the production of cotton had only increased from 45,000 to 53,000 bales in the last three years.  And despite government spending over Sh863 million to pay arrears owed to pyrethrum farmers, production has continued to decline. 

Consequently the President directed the Ministry of Agriculture to expedite reforms to boost the output of the two commodities so that they become more viable enterprises for farmers.

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