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Sugar sector is key to Kenya’s sweet future

Sunday December 29 2019

SAMMY KWINGA
By SAMMY KWINGA
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Agriculture is one of the main contributors to Kenya’s economic growth.

It contributes to over a quarter of our Gross Domestic Product and employs more than 40 per cent of the population. This explains why the sector needs to be developed. 

In the rural areas, 70 per cent of citizens’ livelihoods are dependent on agriculture.

 The sugarcane industry contributes to around 15 per cent of this. The income of over six million people is directly tied to this industry.

INDUSTRIALISATION

President Uhuru Kenyatta has always said that “agriculture is key to our industrialisation strategy as most of our industries are agro-based”.

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The government has started the development of a ten-year comprehensive Agriculture Sector Transformation Growth Strategy. This is aimed at ensuring that agriculture plays a crucial role in economic development of the nation.

Our agricultural sector has been sustaining our people. Our land has been part of our national ethos for a long time.

The government is out to strengthen the agriculture sector, especially the sugar industry. This however, is part of a long-term and gradual process that will ensure changes in the agricultural market are not disruptive.

One such measure has been the creation of the Kenya Agriculture Insurance Programme (KAIP) and the Kenya Livestock Insurance Programme (KLIP).

Mother nature does not take pity on anyone, and while she has the potential to help our agricultural industry soar to new heights, she also has the power to destroy it.

DROUGHT.

This has happened more than once through floods, crop and livestock diseases and drought.

The implementation of these innovative insurance programmes in 2016, designed in partnership with the World Bank, have already befitted hundreds of thousands of Kenyan farmers.

Similar measures aimed at providing farmers with further support are about to be implemented in the sugarcane sector.

These include government sponsored soil testing and providing farmers with subsidised fertilisers.

The new plan for expanding the sugarcane industry also aims to provide farmers with more efficient irrigation technology.

It will work to improve factory operations as well as educate farmers on the optimal time to harvest cane.

Other than playing an important role in the government’s economic plan, the impetus for these measures has been the unusually low output of domestic sugar production this season. Sugar imports have increased by 34 per cent.

SUGAR IMPORTS

While we are lucky to have economic partners from whom we can import sugar when our own markets fall short, this comes at the expense of local farmers.

The President and his interim Director-General of Agriculture and Food Authority Anthony Muriithi have been working to address this shortfall in production.

These, according to estimates, could be tripled given the implementation of the right economic measures. Soon, our farmers will have the capacity to meet our sugar needs. 

The importance of a country’s ability to maintain a self-sustained agricultural sector should not be taken lightly.

Strengthening the industry include improving milling technology, ensuring the provision of the raw materials necessary for efficient production and protecting our nation from international competition through tax measures. Kenyans must support the government’s efforts to revive the sugar sector. 

Mr Kwinga is a political [email protected] 

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