Spike in Kenyan food imports despite heavy investment in agriculture

EDITORIAL: Food imports spike worrying

Pic: Man transports a sack of maize into Kenya from Uganda at the Busia border. (NMG)

Latest reports that food imports grew 58.33 per cent in January to Sh20.9 billion from Sh13.2 billion a year earlier make for a very depressing read.

This is because Kenya is an agricultural country that has in the recent past purported to invest a lot of money in that sector of the economy. Indeed, the contribution of agriculture to the GDP now stands at about a third and the sector still employs the highest number of Kenyans.

Now, for Kenya’s food imports to keep rising, it must only mean that the billions of shillings that go into the sector every year must be considered lost.

Kenya could easily become a food country by taking certain basic steps including funding, talent deployment, research, and collaboration — to make agriculture the true backbone of the economy.

Indeed, the funds being splashed on food imports should be enough to put the sector on the right path in the search for other growth areas like industrialisation. Kenya ought to revamp its agriculture by embracing mechanisation since peasant farming amounts to a pastime that will not impact the overall food security situation.

Two, there is a need to go big on irrigation because of the erratic weather, something that is beyond the peasants. But, finally, this is the time to return extension services as a way of distributing research data to the small farmers. These can be achieved through collaboration among agencies without further delay.

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