NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 8 – The stability of Kenya’s food security lies in improving the value addition chain and increasing trade on finished products, Nakumatt Regional Director of Strategy and Operations, Thiagarajan Ramamurthy says.
Ramamurthy told delegates attending the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) that the right partnerships formed within the horticulture industry can alter not only the course of the industry but that of the country.
“At the end of the day there are many of us involved in the supply chain of agricultural and processed food. We need to look at implementing more processes that will lead to every individual on the value chain significantly gaining more,” said Ramamurthy.
According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics; Kenya’s earnings from horticulture exports rose 20 percent to Sh77.81 billion ($766 million) in the first nine months of this year from 2015.
Flower exports contributed to 69 percent of the earnings with the rest coming from our fruit and vegetable exports.
“Now our farmers, wholesalers and distributors manage this with very little food processing happening here in Kenya. When you look at all the largest food exporters in the world, they all have one thing in common, there is consistent and growing investment in the value addition of the agricultural produce of the country. As a country we should take this route,” said Ramamurthy.
Kenya can quickly grow and expand in our capacity of food processing if we can focus investment towards technology that can increase our processing capacity. Our Kenyan farmers should grow alternative crops both as a source of their own food and as a source of other products to improve their quality of life.
George Washington Carver was a botanist who developed an agricultural extension program whereby farmers could be successfully trained to rotate and cultivate new crop. This crop rotation practice resulted in improved yields and gave farmers alternative cash crops. He is a great example that we do not necessarily need high-tech machinery to actualize our potential.
There should also be a call to the policy makers to continue to create legislation and strategies that can make entry into the food processing industry less challenging.
Food processing is the key to the growth and scale of the Kenyan agricultural economy thus helping us earn more foreign exchange as we multiply our exports. All players on the value chain should be involved in the value adding process certifying that we can all indeed benefit.