Mr Daniel Rotich has always been a happy man. By selling 80kg of mushroom every three days and bagging Sh64,000, who wouldn’t?
But the Eldoret-based farmer and researcher, who now sells between 25 and 30kg of mushroom, is not at ease.
The current state of insecurity in parts of the country has hit hard farmers who supply tourist hotels. This follows the travel alerts by Britain, US and Australia, Kenya’s largest tourism market.
The hotels have scaled down their supplies’ intake following a sharp decrease in tourists. Rotich has now resorted to drying his mushrooms as he hopes to find market.
“If the tourists do not want to visit the country, then I will try my best to supply them in their own countries,” he tells Seeds of Gold, adding that he has embarked on training fellow farmers on how to meet the international market demands.
He plans to take advantage of the proximity of Eldoret International Airport.
But not all farmers are as lucky as Rotich. Those with perishable produce are recording low prices and suffering heavy losses.
One of them is John Maina, who has been supplying a major hotel in Nakuru town with an average of 100kg of carrots per day. The demand has since fallen to between 30 and 40kg.
“We risk losing everything as carrots are very perishable and there is no market,” says Maina, also the chair of Mau Narok Carrot Farmers Association.
And as if the situation is not already bad enough, the prices have slumped from Sh40 per kilo to between Sh25 and Sh30.
The carrot farmers have been forced to diversify into other crops such as potatoes and green peas, which also do well in the area. “There is a big market for potatoes because we can export to Tanzania,” Maina, who has reduced his carrots acreage from seven acres to one-and-a-half, says.
Samuel Gitonga, the chairman of the Kenya National Federation of Agricultural Producers, Nakuru region, warns that farmers may suffer as much losses as they did during the post-election violence of 2008.
David Buya’s story is no different. He has been selling tomatoes, indigenous vegetables, kale and onions to Imperial Hotel in Kisumu. The hotel thrives on tourists and prominent people touring various places in western Kenya.
“I have been supplying between 80 and 100kg of the groceries, earning about Sh100,000 in a month. But last week, I was informed by the management that I will only supply them with a maximum of 10kg each because the number of visitors trooping the hotel has gone down,” says the 31-year-old farmer.
His current target is the small hotels, which hold conferences and seminars. The returns, though, are not impressive.
Then there are those suppliers who are bearing the brunt of the unwillingness of transporters to go to places like Mombasa, which has been black-listed by Britain in its travel alert.
“There is a scarcity of farm produce owing to the inability of transporters to find a safe route to bring commodities to where they are needed,” says Margaret ‘Nyosiro’ Adhiambo, 48, a fruit vendor who supplies mangoes to hotels and markets in Kisumu, Vihiga and Kakamega counties.
“Our transporters fear going to Mombasa. This has left most of us in dilemma,” says Nyosiro.
For Susan Ayuma, a Malindi-based supplier who buys her vegetables and fruits from brokers in Molo, Karatina, Wangige, Taita Taveta and Mpeketoni, her sales have slumped by half.
“We are really suffering. We are not even able to service our bank loans. The hotels have no visitors. We are selling items on credit. Most hotels are closed,” says Ayuma, who used to make between Sh3.8 million and Sh4 million in six months.
Things could get worse, warns David Gachuru, the General Manager of the Sarova PanAfric, which has scaled down the orders by over 50 per cent. “This is likely to go down with time because farmers will also have to look for short-term survival activities. Farmers supplying us with chicken and eggs are the most affected in the value chain.”
Johari Villas, a luxury beach resort in Malindi, is among the few which are yet to close.
“We used to buy 200kg of chicken, but now we buy 20kg, which we hardly even sell,” says Edward Kombe, a manager, adding that they are finding it difficult to pay for the deliveries.
The challenge for Julius Kamau, a Mtwapa farmer who supplies eggs and assorted fruits to Mombasa Beach and Diani Grand Reef hotels, is the overhead costs to maintain his poultry.
“The challenge is to feed the poultry. We spend about Sh120,000 to Sh140,000 to buy feeds and pay electricity, water bills and pay wages on a monthly basis yet our incomes have significantly dropped,” says Kamau.
When the times were good, he used to sell up to 100 crates of eggs, 300 broilers and assorted fruits twice a week.
“Soon the banks will be knocking on our doors to attach our assets to recover loans and overdrafts if the industry remains on its knees,” laments Olive Tindika of Mama Olivine Fresh and Fruity.
Reports by Rachel Kibui, Everline Okewo, Evelyne Situma and Bozo Jenje.