Why Coronavirus Is A Nightmare To Kenyan Farmers
Kenya’s economy largely depends on the agricultural sector; with tea, coffee and horticultural exports being the main contributors of the country’s income. The country is already experiencing the effects of the coronavirus (Covid-19), that is causing a global economic meltdown.
Kenya’s fresh produce exports to the European Union have dropped due to the global spread of the virus. The drop in the exports is attributed to the lockdown in Europe, resulting to limited movement of consumers.
With the virus limiting travel, the epidemic is definitely putting a strain on the exportation of horticultural crops; flowers, tea, coffee and avocados.
According to 2017 statistics from the Multilateral Agency International Trade Centre, Kenya is the largest exporter of avocado in Africa producing an average of 191,000 tonnes of avocado per year and exporting approximately 51,507 tonnes of the fruit.
On January 31st, Kenya Airways suspended all its flights to Guangzhou, China, to avoid spread of the disease to the country. The move affected avocado farmers in the country, as China is one of the biggest market for the fruit.
The flower industry has also been hit hard by the epidemic. Kenya is one of the leading suppliers of cut flowers to the European market. The epidemic has come at a time when most flower growers were looking forward to making huge sales around the Mother’s Day celebrations.
The cancellation of flower exports is a big blow to the country’s economy. In Naivasha and Timau; where most of the flower growers are located, thousands of flower farm workers have been laid off as more farmers continue to dispose of their daily harvests.
Although it is not yet clear how big the blow will be, the Covid-19 outbreak is posing a threat to food security in the country.
The food supply chain in Kenya relies on farmers, entrepreneurs and consumers moving around to access commodities from the farms and the markets.
With Kenyans practicing social distancing and avoiding crowded places such as market places, it is likely to have food wastage. Farmers will not find market for their produce, while fresh vegetables and fruits will not reach the market leading to loses.
Panic buying; as recently witnessed in the country as well as around the world, could also cause price hikes of food commodities.
The COVID-19 triggered global economic recession will mean a lot more expensive imports. Importation of farm inputs such as pesticides, farm equipment and machines required by farmers to facilitate their farming activities will be disrupted.
In cases where importers manage to bring into the country these products; they are likely to increase prices trying to meet their margins, forcing the farmers to incur extra costs.
It is evident that the coronavirus (Covid-19) will greatly affect the agriculture sector in Kenya. However, just like the other epidemics we have faced in the past, corona virus will also come to pass.
It is therefore imperative that each of one of us plays our part in ensuring that we prevent the spread of the virus, by strictly following the preventive measures that have been laid out.