By George Munene
According to Kenyan farmers consulted for the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) March 2023 Agriculture sector survey, 38 per cent highlighted lowering the cost of inputs and stabilizing fuel prices as the most important factor in improving agricultural production.
Input costs are the operating costs required for agricultural production. They include fertilisers, seeds, pesticides, feed, weaned animals, and any other production input.
Though input prices are cooling, in 2022 most had risen at an unprecedented rate owing to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine which caused supply chain challenges and increased global demand for agriculture inputs and supplies. Kenya was also experiencing a severe drought, and COVID-19 disrupted local and international labor markets.
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Diesel– the main source of fuel for farm machinery– increased by 20 shillings a liter in September of last year after the government got rid of fuel subsidy. This year petrol has hit its highest price, Sh179.30 in Nairobi– the highest price for the commodity since the country began regulating pump prices 13 years ago.
According to the survey, only two per cent of farmers had access to irrigation water. Increasing water for irrigation to supplement farmers’ over-reliance on rainfall (23 %) was the second major pressing need by farmers. 18 per cent of them also recommended timely provision of quality seeds/fertilizer/tractors and extension services.
The respondents revealed that contrary to the past, they have not witnessed extension officers visiting farms to provide professional advice and hence recommended that the function should not be office based. This would ensure that the seeds and fertilizer availed to farmers fit the environmental conditions and boost yields.
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Regarding irrigation, farmers recommended sinking of boreholes and erection of the pivot center irrigation method which they consider to be more effective in watering their farms. This would help supplement the ongoing government programs on the establishment of dams. In addition, the government should devise ways of harvesting rainwater for use during the dry season.
Other reasons cited included; a review of land policy on land subdivision, restricted importation of commodities that are available locally, and reduction of levies on county borders to reduce the cost of ferrying goods from other counties.