Kenya is planning to mechanise its agriculture and looking to India for farm equipment that will bring down production costs at a time when there has been heightened interest in modern farming by smallholder farmers.
"We are looking at India for mechanisation support. Currently, we have around 15,000 tractors but there is a severe deficit. The requirement is for 100,000 tractors," Felix Koskei, cabinet secretary for agriculture, livestock and fisheries said. "After having discussions with the manufacturers we will start talks with the Indian government. We have already spoken to Indian companies like Sonalika Tractors, Apollo and many others," added Koskei.
He noted in this context that Kenya had secured an $80 million line of credit from Brazil to buy 2,000 pieces of farm equipment.
Koskei said his country was making "key policy changes to bring down the cost of production", which was very high because of high cost of inputs like fertiliser, seeds and mechanisation.
"We want to bring it down by 50 percent," he said, adding: "We will be looking at subsidies for inputs like fertiliser and seeds." Agriculture contributes 25 percent of Kenya's GDP and it involves around 80 percent of the country's population.
Kenya produces maize, wheat, rice and a variety of pulses.
"But we are also a net importer of rice, wheat and maize. Maize is our staple. We grow it but it is not enough," Koskei said. The country also wants to shift from rain-fed agriculture to irrigation. "Currently, the government wants to irrigate one million acres in five years so that production of food crops is consistent and sustainable," he said.
Koskei said the government expects that all these efforts will double production. "We also want the agriculture sector to grow by double digits per year. The growth rate now is four percent." "We are also looking at value-addition equipment like dairy processing plants. We will encourage manufacturers to open assembling plants in Kenya," he added.