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Influx of food imports from Tanzania
and Uganda hit Kenyan farmers

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- On his poultry farm in Kitengela, a suburb on the outskirts of the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, James Kanani keeps layers for eggs.

Kanani has been a farmer for the last four years, running the agribusiness alongside his daily job as a secondary school teacher in the fast-growing urban settlement.

From his 500 birds, Kanani gets some 450 eggs every day that he has been selling to shopkeepers across the town.

However, despite his cost of production rising, the price of his produce has been going down, forcing him to sell a tray of 30 eggs at 2.6 U.S. dollars, down from 2.8 dollars in April.

Kanani blames his predicament on a surge in cheap imports from the neighboring Uganda, which has spoilt market for Kenyan farmers.

“They have completely spoilt the market for us. The eggs are going for as low as 2.4 dollars a crate in some places,” said the farmer recently.

From eggs to dry maize, onions, potatoes, melons and tomatoes, the imports from the neighboring Uganda and Tanzania are on the rise giving produce from Kenya stiff competition.

And the local farmers like Kanani are feeling the pinch as they have to bring down the cost of their farm produce to compete with the imports.

“It is becoming difficult to sell produce from our farms because even traders now prefer those from Tanzania. I have been growing onions in Juja, Kiambu County, for some years now, and last month I harvested and called a trader to buy my produce but he informed me he had cheaper onions from Tanzania,” said Bernard Watuti, who sells 10kg of his produce at 3 dollars.

The trader informed Watuti that Tanzanian onions are popular because they have a longer shelf-life as compared to those from Kenyans.

At Wakulima market, in the central business district, that the imports are on high demand is apparent as dozens of lorries with produce from Tanzania that include potatoes, fruits and onions arrive there every morning.

On Wednesday, several lorries with Tanzanian registration had parked at the market offloading oranges and onions.

“They arrive here very early in the morning and offload the produce to traders and leave in the afternoon. Up to 20 lorries come here every day,” said Joyce Kimani, a fruit vendor, who noted that Tanzanian oranges are now in season.

Unhappy Kenyan farmers and some traders have protested against the rise in imports, calling on the government to regulate importation of farm produce.

In Nyeri last week, traders and farmers protested against an influx of onions from Tanzania, noting they had ruined prices in the market.

A kilo of onions in the county is going for 0.25 dollars for Grade 1 and 0.15 dollars for Grade 2, down from 0.50 dollars and 0.30 dollars respectively.

“We are having serious challenges when it comes to selling our produce because of the huge surplus of produce from Tanzania,” Fred Kingori, a trader said.

Maize farmers in breadbasket regions of the Rift Valley have similarly complained of the influx of imports from Uganda, which have spoilt the market with a bag of maize going for 15 dollars amid ongoing harvest.

Prices are expected to decline further as the East African nation expects a bumper harvest of at least 40 million bags of maize. With a spike in imports, the price of the produce is expected to hit a new low.

“A lot of maize is coming in from Uganda currently and this would certainly push the cost of the produce down,” said Bernard Moina, an agricultural officer in Kitale, western Kenya.

He noted that Kenyan produce is finding it hard to compete with those from Tanzania and Uganda because farmers in the nations have government subsidies, which have made farm inputs cheaper.

“Unfortunately, our farmers have no choice but to contend with the produce because we have trading protocols that allow free movement of goods and service,” he said.



FAO supports Kenyan farmers with driers to curb waste in fresh produce harvest

KITUI (Xinhua) -- The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said it will support the construction of vegetable and fruits solar driers to reduce wastage during peak harvests.

Tian Cai, FAO program officer in charge of increasing smallholder productivity and profitability (ISPP) project in Kenya, said on Friday that the solar driers will help reduce wastage of fresh produce like vegetables, pawpaw and mangoes that are produced in abundance every year.

“Lots of vegetables and fruits are reportedly going to waste every year during peak seasons leading farmers to make losses,” Tian told Xinhua in lower eastern county of Kitui.

She revealed that the UN food agency has already constructed a drier in Kitui County for members of Kithingali self-help group at a cost of 3,000 U.S. dollars.

“We intend to construct additional two driers for farmers in Makueni and Tharaka Nithi counties,” said Tian.

She said the driers will also help farmers increase nutrition status, profitability and productivity of their vegetables and fruits.

The official said that FAO has also trained 40,000 farmers since October last year on agronomy, water use, irrigation, nutrition and agribusiness.

“We are planning to train a total of 80,000 farmers in the arid and semi-arid eastern Kenyan counties of Tharaka Nithi, Kitui, Makueni, Machakos and Taita Taveta,” said Tian.

She noted that through the project, farmers will be able to transition from subsistence to commercially viable food production systems that promise better revenues and nutrition.

Tian noted that the farmers are also being trained on how to enter into contract farming with buyers as this help reduces food wastages.

She said around 8,500 farmers in the four counties now grow kitchen garden and 16,000 preserve vegetables for their household consumption.

Tian revealed that a recent project evaluation shows that majority of farmers can consume the vegetable produced on their kitchen garden for at least three months in a year.

“The project is to increase farmers’ nutrition status by improving their access and consumption of nutritious food from their farms as opposed to selling all the produce from their farms,” said the FAO official.

“We designed and offer farmers a package of nutrition activities to ensure farmers can learn practice and adopt knowledge about nutrition. Most of the farmer groups trained on nutrition have positively responded,” she added.


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