By George Munene
The rise in fuel prices is causing an increase in the cost of food production for farmers. This is expressed in a 25 per cent increase in the cost of running water pumps for crop irrigation and a 30 per cent rise in ploughing costs.
“Farming in Kenya is an enterprise already fraught with risk as well as being expensive. Being that every coin saved is important the ever-rising fuel prices are making it increasingly harder to earn a profit. I used to irrigate a quarter an acre of land with about Sh400 overnight the same plot of land cost almost Sh100 more to water,” says Karen Kendi, a vegetable farmer in Meru.
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With Mining and Petroleum CS John Munyes warning Kenyans to expect another scheduled fuel increase this month, she struggles to see how she can still keep her overheads low enough to eke a profit. “Fuels costs accounted for half of my production costs, she says. “There is no relief offered to farmers; fertilizer and pesticide costs are also high while the middlemen who buy my produce do not factor in the increased cost of production on the farmer’s end.” She irrigates her crop of capsicums and tomatoes with water pumped from the nearby Kathita River.
Being well into the rainy season, Karen hopes that rains are consistent enough, meaning less need to pump in water to her farm.
Bernard Kibet, a maize farmer in Trans Nzoia County, counts himself lucky for having ploughed and sowed his seven acres of land in mid-March. This was just early enough to avoid the 30 percent hike in ploughing cost; from Sh2,300 to Sh3,000 an acre.
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The curbs on movement and working hours have meant economic activity has been depressed this means people have less expendable income. Though agricultural produce is an everyday essential, Kenyans are shopping for the bare minimum to fill their kitchen pantries. Sadly, with less market demand, this dictates a fall in the price of foodstuff even as the cost of production continues to rise.