, MOMBASA, Kenya, Aug 14 – President Mwai Kibaki has urged traders to be humane and stop taking advantage of the shortages caused by the drought in various parts of the country to hike prices of food commodities.
President Kibaki regretted that some traders had increased the prices of consumer commodities to the extent that the common mwananchi was finding it difficult to access food.
The Head of State who was officially opening of the Mombasa International Agricultural Society of Kenya (ASK) show at Mombasa show ground, said if need be the government will seek ways of ensuring wanachi do not suffer.
The President at the same time directed the Ministries of Finance and Agriculture to device ways and means of intervening on sugar and other commodities that the government imposes duty tax with a view to reducing the consumer price of sugar especially during the forthcoming period of the holy month of Ramadhan.
It was good news for the people of the Coast province, with President Kibaki instructing the Ministry of Agriculture to immediately distribute 100,000 seedlings of coconut to deserving farmers.
On provision of infrastructure country-wide, the Head of State expressed the government’s determination to develop a Second Transport Corridor with Lamu as a Second Port providing sea access to Southern Sudan and Ethiopia.
The new transport corridor comprising the proposed port, a railway line and highway to the hinterland will include an airport and an oil refinery, together with an oil pipeline from the proposed Port to Southern Sudan and recreational towns at Lamu and Isiolo.
On concerns raised over the slow pace of implementing road projects, the Head of State directed the relevant ministry to ensure that all projects are completed on time and within the set costs and standards.
With regard to tourism, the President said the sector played a big role in job creation and stimulating growth of others with coastal region accounting for 60 percent of arrivals and 40 percent to the market share of the whole industry.
“While the industry is very much private – sector driven, the government would continue to provide a conducive environment through promotion and marketing, security, and infrastructure for further development,” assured the President.
On food deficiency, President Kibaki directed the Ministries of Agriculture, Livestock and Water to team up with the leadership in Coast Province to devise ways and means of harnessing the unutilised potential in the province.
The President noted that while the province is endowed with high potential in agriculture and livestock sectors, the region remained a net importer of foodstuffs and dairy products.
“The province is endowed with 3.3 million hectares of arable land and an irrigation potential of 190,000 hectares. Additionally, 80 percent of the province has potential for ranching and non-conventional livestock production,” said President Kibaki.
Due to the unexploited potential, the Head of State added, farmers in the Province earned only Sh7.8 billion from various crops last year. Yet it is known that the opportunities to earn a lot more are enormous in the region.
Stressing the importance of coconut farming as the major crop for the livelihood of the region, the President said the government established the Coconut Development Authority as part of its intervention measures aimed at assisting farmers to successfully commercialise the venture.
On commercial farming in the region, the President expressed the government commitment to revitalise the sugar industry and had made progress in supporting re-introduction of the industry through the Kwale International Sugar Company.
The project, President Kibaki said, will cost the investor approximately Sh18 billion and when fully operational would create over 3,000 jobs directly, and thousands more indirectly.
Noting that a lot of progress has been made with more than 5,000 acres of land prepared for sugarcane growing, the Head of State urged the investor to hasten completion of the remaining preparatory work so that the factory can be commissioned early to pave way for the local people to benefit.
The President at the same time pointed out that the Government has earmarked the region in a new economic stimulus programme on irrigated food production and planed to put under irrigation most of the potential 190,000-hectare land in the region in the next five years.
“The Government has started with an initial allocation of Sh3 billion. The initial phase of this programme to irrigate 5,000 hectares will be launched next week in Hola and Bura to tap the potential,” said the President.
The President enumerated other government interventions to exploit potential in marine fisheries and the cooperative movement.
“Currently, marine fisheries produce 7,000 tonnes valued at Sh538 million against a potential of 160,000 tons worth Sh12 billion,” President Kibaki said.
He challenged farmers, processors and other stake holders in agro-businesses to utilise the opportunity provided by ASK shows to interact, exchange views and learn new technologies to improve their enterprises and farms.
With regard to land, the Head of State put absentee landlords on notice to either develop their vast tracts or the government re-possesses and allocate for productive purposes.
“Kenyans are aware that access to land can and continues to be a major factor in the development of the coast region. This is why the government has in the last three years settled over 30,000 squatters,” noted the Head of State.
Earlier, the President toured the various winning stands and the trade area. He presented long and loyal service awards, certificates and trophies to the winning exhibitors.
Leaders who included the Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka and Agriculture Minister William Ruto were united on the need to conserve the country’s forests and water catchment areas.