The Ministry of Agriculture has expressed optimism in the growth of horticultural trade sector which has shown a positive out look in Kenya and the African continent despite the challenges facing the industry.
The PS in the Ministry, Dr. Romano Kiome termed horticulture as the most successful sub sector in Agriculture saying that the growth has experienced an upward trend since the period of post-election violence that erupted in 2008 among other constraints, however he expressed hope that the sub sector will continue to record positive results in coming years.
“The sub sector, despite the few challenges on issues of labour costs,tax evasions has continued providing positive results, the growth outlook is good and we are expecting a 2 to 5 per cent growth in coming years,” said Kiome during the release of an Audit report on Kenya’s Intra-Africa Horticultural trade by the Kenya Horticulture Competitiveness Project (KHCP) at a Nairobi hotel yesterday.
He said the government is working with the stakeholders to address the challenges facing the sector while at the same time encouraged farmers to adopt a cross border inflow system especially during this dry spell occasioned by lack of seeds, adding that it will assist them in maintaining good prices.
“ The supply of Horticultural products is increasing in the south Rift, I will encourage farmers to adopt the cross border inflow system to keep a good price,” he said.
Kiome said the Ministry has been allocated 15 billion shillings for the improvement of irrigation that will in turn boost horticultural productivity adding that the African Development Bank will support value addition initiative to a tune of 15 million dollar.
At the same time he urged farmers to focus on tomato farming due to the market and product opportunity of the commodity.
“ Tomato products are the second largest exports among processed vegetables, meaning they have a good base, farmers have a reason to think twice on investing on the commodity,” said Kiome.
According to the report, Kenya exported 3,380 million tonnes of processed tomato products worth 209.7 million shillings over the a period of five years, of this tomato sauce was the biggest component and Kenya’s second largest export among processed vegetable amounting to 2,804 million tonnes worth 152.2 million shillings over the period with the main export destinations being Tanzania, Sudan and Uganda.
Meanwhile the PS said the government is planning on a commodity exchange programme that will see the improvement of market infrastructure to boost the horticultural sector.
“Already the we have 6 facilities and 32 other are in the process of completion, we expect to have about 80 such facilities as we expand all over the country,” said the PS.
The strategy will help to abolish double or multiple taxation that the industry is subjected to as traders experience safety of products and conducive environment which would in turn spur growth.
According to the audit report, Kenya exported horticultural products valued at 31 billion shillings which is six times the value of imports that rests at 4.8 billion shillings over the last five years. The exports have increased at an annual rate of 14.3 per cent from 3.9 billion shillings in 2006 to 6.8 billion shillings in 2010 while imports rose to 0.6 billion shillings at a rate of 26.2 to reach 1.4 billion shillings during the same period.
The horticultural industry is the fastest growing agricultural sub-sector in the country contributing about 23 percent of Gross Domestic Product and also raking in an average of Sh70 billion annually in foreign exchange.