As government releases the Economic Survey 2018, key focus to majority of Kenyans is the performance of agriculture sector, which is the backbone of the economy.
Productivity in the sector has been the main challenge leading to lack of adequate food to feed the increasing population.
The sector which is the main backbone of the economy grapples with poor rainfall distribution, high levels of soil acidity, low levels of mechanisation, use of outdated technology, emergence of new pests and diseases and recycling of planting materials.
This has resulted to high food import bill which according to Ministry of Agriculture stands at Sh240 billion ($2.4 billion) in 2017.
Despite the low productivity, the sector further suffers post-harvest losses to the tune of 40 per cent of the total produce due to lack of modern storage facilities every year. Most of the produce get spoilt at the farm level and at collection centres.
According to the World Bank latest edition of the Kenya economic update, agriculture contributes about 51 per cent to gross domestic product (GDP), of which 26 per cent is directly and 25 percent is indirectly.
Food security Productivity in the sector remains low particularly in grains, which yields per acre/hectare of maize– Kenya’s main staple –was lower in 2014 (1,628kg/ha) than in 1994 (1,918kg/ha).
The case is the same in potatoes, wheat, fresh produce and legumes contributing to food insecurity. Given low levels of productivity in the sector and a growing population, there remains a structural food deficit which contributes to the trade deficit, food insecurity and poor nutritional outcomes. Compounding the current situation is vulnerability to adverse weather condition.
Last year the sector suffered greatly following the prolonged drought, insufficient rains, invasion of fall army worms and post-harvest losses.
According to Economic Survey 2017, the sector recorded 4.4 per cent in 2016 compared to 7.2 per cent in 2015 production year due to insufficient rains during the short rains period, high cost of inputs and the residual effects of Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease (MLND).
The total value of cereals in the country decreased to Sh23.1 billion in 2016 from Sh24.1 billion in 2015, while value of horticulture, temporary industrial crops, permanent crops and livestock recorded an increase. Maize, beans, potatoes, sorghum and millet all recorded decrease in terms of production.
For example, Maize production declined from 42.5 million bags in 2015 to 37.1 million bags in 2016 while value also declined from Sh8.5 billion in 2015 to Sh7.8 billion in 2016.