Food scarcity in Kenya is brought about by massive post-harvest losses, which are attributed to low value addition and inadequate cold chain facilities
The low uptake of value addition in Kenya can be attributed to the high cost of processing machines, lack of technical skills in value addition, and challenges of accessing markets.
Maina Karuiru, the national project coordinator of The Market Access Upgrade Programme (MARKUP) Kenya, says there is also the issue complying with legal and safety standards, in addition to a lack of enough raw materials for processing.
Karuiru told Horticulture News that to improve the situation, there is a need to sensitise farmers on the benefits of value addition, especially through the establishment of cottage industries in rural areas where raw materials are readily available.
“Farmers should be encouraged and supported to form farmer cooperatives and small-scale farmer groups so as to enable them increase production, aggregate their produce, and become attractive to exporters through contractual farming,” said Karuiru.
The government, explains Karuiru, should continue creating an enabling environment to encourage agribusiness actors to do value addition. “Banks should also be more supportive, especially on agribusiness lending.”
The MARKUP Kenya project is sponsored by the European Union and implemented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), in partnership with the private sector, the national and county governments.
“Value addition of primary produce at source is one of the most important drivers of economic growth, job creation and increased incomes for farmers,” says Karuiru. “It also helps to increase throughput by processing almost of the produce harvested, leading to less wastage.”
MARKUP also advocates GLOBAL GAP certification, which is a key export requirement. Getting farmers to be GLOBAL GAP-certified improves access to international markets and increases export volumes.
Among other things, MARKUP facilitates farmers’ training on GAP integrated pest management and biological control of pests. It also identifies and supports innovative storage and packing facilities at the farms, which ensures the extended shelf life of produce.
Kenya has an almost infinite potential for the production of horticultural products—not just with traditional crops, but also many others such as chillies and herbs.
However, not all products end up in their final destinations. There are several challenges, right through the entire value chain, that prevent this potential from being realised, the most obvious being post-harvest losses.
Post-harvest losses are especially painful to the farmer as their earnings are seriously eroded, when put into the context of the time and resources expended on the crop, right from the time of planting.
Still, even with the little produce that goes to the market, some farmers — especially small-scale ones — do not have the requisite ability to negotiate better rates with buyers, not forgetting the stringent requirements imposed on their produce for it to get to the intended overseas markets. This ranges from the type of pesticides used to the status of storage.
It is thus important for farmers — indeed, the entire value chain — to employ globally-accepted Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), which will ensure minimum losses and maximise earnings and, in the process, create more jobs and wealth for the country.
According to a report by the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM), food scarcity in Kenya is brought about by massive post-harvest losses, which are attributed to low value addition and inadequate cold chain facilities. “Food Agriculture Organization’s (FAO 2014) report on Food Loss Assessments approximates that Kenya loses between 20 [and] 50 per cent of its agricultural production due to post-harvest losses,” says the report.
Value addition, if fully embraced, can be a game-changer in the overall value chain. Consider this: The world chocolate market is worth $100 billion annually; however, the two largest cocoa growing countries, Cote D’Ivoire and Ghana, only earn $5 billion since all the value addition is done outside those countries.
The KAM report adds that the cocoa situation also applies to Kenyan products such as tea, coffee, hides and skins, among others. “If we are to add value to these products, we would realise five times the earnings we currently have, and in the process, create more direct and indirect jobs along the value chains,” adds the report.
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