NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 29 – President Mwai Kibaki has said that the Government remains steadfast in pursuing sound policies that are business friendly to ensure the country remains a preferred financial and trading hub.
He cited measures such as controlling the inflation rate, ensuring predictable foreign exchange rates and an interest rate regime that is favourable to both borrowers and depositors.
"We are also at the forefront of the ICT revolution that enables quick and secure settlement of trade transactions,” the President affirmed on Wednesday during the official opening of the 2010 Nairobi International Trade Fair at Jamhuri Park Showground.
Underlining the importance of the agricultural sector, President Kibaki said there was need to inject a business attitude to agriculture by transforming the sector into a commercial enterprise that attracts high productivity.
“This sector continues to be the key driver of our economy. The sector accounts for 24 percent of the National Gross Domestic Product, provides 61 percent of our foreign revenue and supports the livelihood of 78 percent of our rural people,” said the President.
He said that the government had identified several critical areas and had taken concrete measures focusing on modernisation of agriculture and maximisation of returns to farmers.
“For example the government is now an active player in the provision of subsidised and affordable fertilizer and seeds to farmers. In this programme the Government has distributed fertilizer worth Sh9.7 billion and seeds valued at Sh800 million. The net effect was a bumper crop this year, to the extent that we are now experiencing a challenge of low prices and inadequate storage facilities at the farm,” he remarked.
The President noted that despite the various challenges afflicting the sector, the government’s provision of subsidised fertilizer and seeds to farmers had immensely contributed to revival of the sector and attainment of bumper harvest this year.
“In particular, the prolonged drought of 2008, reversed the impressive agricultural growth rate of an average of 5.2 percent attained in 2006 and 2007, to an average of negative 3.5 percent in 2008 and 2009. I am, however, encouraged to note that we have weathered these challenges and are now back on track to recovery,” the Head of State noted.
During the occasion, President Kibaki directed the Ministry of Agriculture to with immediate effect establish a warehouse receipt system that could enable farmers to store their grains in certified National Cereals and Produce silos.
Moreover, the Head of State assured that the Government had provided Sh700 million to establish appropriate community based storage facilities installed with proper drying and post harvest management systems with the aim of raising the country’s Strategic Grain Reserve to the target of eight million bags.
Other measures taken by the government to revamp the sector, the President said, included expansion of irrigated acreage as well as rebuilding of agriculture research and extensions services.
“Last year we achieved a 100 percent success rate by irrigating an additional 46,000 acres of land. A total of 90,000 tons of rice and 36,000 tons of maize were produced. We will continue to allocate more resources so that we can put one million acres under irrigation in the next five years,” remarked the Head of State.
He said that additional extension workers would be hired through collaboration with development partners and agricultural mechanisation services with tractors would be revamped at a cost of Sh3.2 billion.
President Kibaki said: “Mechanised agriculture will lower production costs, increase land yields and improve the timeliness of agricultural operations. This will result in rising incomes, increased social welfare and economic growth.”
With regard to infrastructure, the Head of State affirmed that the Government had embarked on an aggressive programme to modernise the local roads network.
“In our urban centers, we are building city by-passes, overpasses and other link roads that will facilitate faster transportation of goods and passengers,” stated the President.
He disclosed that Sh104 billion had been allocated for roads development while new road corridors to link Kenya with neighbouring countries had been initiated.
President Kibaki said, “Infrastructure is very important to agricultural development. For this reason, we have continued to invest heavily in developing all aspects of infrastructure including roads, railways, electricity, water supply, air and maritime transport as well as the telecommunications sector.”
Earlier the President toured various winning stands including the Ministry of Agriculture, NSSF and the International exhibits pavilion. President Kibaki later presented prizes and certificates to winning exhibitors in various classes.
The Minister for Agriculture Sally Kosgei in her speech outlined the various measures the Government was taking to revamp food production and maximise farmers’ earnings.
Dr Kosgei said the government will continue to work with the private sector and development partners to make Kenya self sufficient in food production.
The Minister also expressed appreciation to the US government for supporting government initiatives to eradicate famine in the country.