, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 2 – President Uhuru Kenyatta Friday announced that the Government will writing-off of Sh39.7 billion that sugar companies owe to the Sugar Development Levy Fund.
The move is meant to pave the way for privatization and make the firms attractive to investors.
President Kenyatta pledged that the Government will continue to do “everything within its power” to help cane farming get back on its feet in order to improve the livelihoods of the people.
“In return, I expect to see accountability and diligence from those who the sugar companies,” President Kenyatta said.
He spoke on Friday at Jamhuri Park when he opened this year’s Nairobi International Trade Fair.
The President said the sector has also received additional financial support from the Sugar Development Fund in the past 24 months.
“Sh1.4 billion was disbursed to purchase equipment for use by nine operating mills; Sh1.2 billion was given for cane development; another Sh2 billion was set aside for affordable credit and grants; and Sh1.5 billion was allocated to rehabilitation of sugar mills,” he said.
He said the Government is also implementing policies that will address the high-cost of agricultural inputs, citing enacting and enforcement of regulations that will lower the cost of capital and financial services for farmers and promote agro-processing and value addition.
“My Government recognises that agriculture is and will continue to play a key role in realising the twin objectives of poverty reduction and shared prosperity as enshrined in our Constitution and our blueprint Vision 2030,” he said.
The President emphasised that the Government’s subsidy scheme will continue to cushions farmers against high input prices.
Under the subsidy programme, prices of fertiliser have been reduced from Sh3,700 to Ksh1,800 for DAP and from Sh2,700 to Sh1,500 for CAN. More than 206,000 metric tons of fertiliser has been distributed through the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) to farmers this year.
“My Government subsidised this fertiliser at a cost of Sh3 billion,” the President said, adding that groundbreaking for the construction of a fertiliser factory was done last month in Uasin Gishu County to address farmers’ long-term demand for cheaper but high quality fertilizer.
The Head of State said the plant will initially blend fertiliser and eventually get into manufacturing.
He said the Government is strengthening quality and safety checks to ensure that agricultural products meet the highest international standards and attract the markets and prices that their quality deserves.
In line with the Jubilee administration’s pledge to reduce dependence on rain-fed agriculture, President Kenyatta said the area under irrigation has increased.
“Last year, through the Expanded National Irrigation Programme, my Government rehabilitated and expanded national irrigation schemes by approximately 25,000 acres,” President Kenyatta said.
The Head of State said the Government has allocated Sh13 billion for the completion of 175 irrigation projects this financial year to bring an additional 42,500 acres under irrigation.
He observed that the Galana-Kulalu irrigation project is on course and the first crop was harvested a few weeks ago.
“We have now signed agreements with our partners in Israel for partial funding and technical assistance; and we look forward to the success of what amounts to the most ambitious irrigation project in the history of this nation,” he disclosed.
The President said the Government has also established a Fertiliser and Seed Development Fund to ensure farmers get quality seeds. The initial investment is Sh3 billion which will be increased gradually to Sh15 billion in the near future.
“In the meantime, we have ensured that there are enough subsidised seeds to match this planting season’s requirements,” the President said.
This financial year, the Government allocated Sh77 million for various high-value crop and planting materials to be distributed to farmers for the short and long rains. A further Sh375 million to promote crop diversification across the country has also been set aside.
President Kenyatta said these efforts – combined with the tireless diligence of farmers – have ensured a bumper harvest this year.
“We expect 43 million bags of maize this year, up from 38 million last year. We would have had even more, had it not been for the Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease that struck some maize farms,” President Kenyatta said.
While encouraging farmers to work with extension service officers in their counties on how to fight the maize disease, the President expressed satisfaction that research has identified promising disease-resistant varieties, which will soon be released to farmers.
He said there is a one-stop screening facility at Kenya Agricultural, Livestock and Research Organization (KALRO) in Naivasha.
On coffee, President Kenyatta cited liberalisation of marketing and milling of coffee, debt waiver to farmers and the establishment of Commodities Fund – which has to date disbursed over Sh2 billion to 80,000 beneficiaries – as part of the Government’s initiatives to improve the sub-sector.
Acting Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Adan Mohamed thanked Zambia and East African countries that are taking part in the trade fair. Zambia is participating for the first time.
Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero said the county Government is building the largest Jua Kali market in the country at the junction of Kangundo and outer ring roads.
The Governor said Nairobi as an urban county is also adopting unique methods, including modern technology, to produce food.
He pledged the city government’s supports to all initiatives and efforts by the national government to combat insecurity in various parts of the country.
Acting ASK national chairperson Annabella Kiriinya said 93 foreign countries including China, Nigeria, Zambia and Iran are participating in the trade fair. She described trade fairs world over as testing grounds for new products.