Farmers CRY of adverse effects if no measures are taken to save their fresh produce

Farmers CRY of adverse effects if no measures are taken to save their fresh produce

By Malachi Motano

The government should revise tax imposed on farm inputs including equipment such as ploughs, harrows, planters, sprayers, harvesters and balers to reduce the cost of producing fresh produce and general farming.

“We are forced to buy fertilizers from our neighbours Tanzania as those sold in Kenya are very expensive and largely ineffective resulting in decreased yields. The government should take appropriate action which in this case is simply reducing the taxes imposed on agro-chemicals as it has resulted in the high cost of fertilizers and pesticides thus we are making no profit from our sweat,” says Augustine Wainaina an onion farmer in Rombo Kajiado south.

His colleague Joseph Lenku whose onion farm is in Nyaru area, in Rombo blames the unscrupulous businessmen who are taking advantage of the situation and are therefore selling to them sub-standard fertilizers at a lower cost resulting in low yields. 

“Onion farming has become very expensive, prices of fertilizers and pesticides are high here because of the tax imposed on agro-chemicals. We have suffered for years and barely making any profit despite putting in a lot of effort and money so as to get a bumper harvest,” says Lenku.   

His sentiments are echoed by Magdalina Saruni who grows onions in Ilasit. She urges the government to come to their rescue simply by supplying them with quality fertilizers at a subsidized cost and also reducing taxes on agro-chemicals.  

She also points out exploitation by middlemen who purchase their produce cheaply as another challenge, causing them to incur millions of shillings in losses every harvest. 
Magdalina revealed that brokers and some traders collude to keep the prices of onions low at the farms only to repackage and sell them at higher prices. 

“The fertilizers and pesticides used are expensive yet traders want to purchase our produce at throw away prices. During harvest brokers and traders throng our farms and take advantage of illiterate farmers by buying the produce at low prices. Apart from farmers being exploited by middlemen, the county government is also denied revenue,” Magdalinas Said

The farmers called on the county government to pass a by-law regulating the packaging of onions and enforce it to deter brokers from buying onions from the farms in large quantities and repackaging. 

According to Saruni, the onions are packed in wooden boxes and five more buckets added on top, to make what they call ‘Turbo package’ an amount that is sold for less than Sh 1,000. “The Turbo package of onions carries over 150kgs compared to the ordinary 60kgs package of the flat ordinary wooden box,” she says.

Another farmer is Mameta Saunyi who urges the county government to build a cooling plant for storage and preservation of their produce to prevent them from going to waste. He says potatoes sometimes take long in their farms due to over production and heavy rains, making them incur losses as they sell at throw away prices. He further called on the national government to repair the Rombo- Ilasit-Njukini road adding that the road is impassable during the rainy season making it hard to transport produce to the market.

The farmers says farm implements not only lower the cost of production for farmers, but also increase harvest yields.The tax measures have came in at a time when farmers are reeling from devastating effect of floods, locust attacks, and Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr. Timothy Njagi, a senior research fellow with Tegemeo Institute is warning of the adverse effects to the agricultural sector if no measures are taken to save fresh produce since farming (agriculture) contributes 26 per cent to Kenya’s economy, another 27 per cent through indirect linkages and employs almost half of the population according to the data at global Food Authority Organisation (FAO)
“Agriculture is a major driver of the country’s economy, we understand they want to raise revenue but some of these proposals are counterproductive and if they are fully implemented, it will be a nightmare for the country,” said Dr Njagi.
Doctor Njagi says “Relying on manpower sets back agricultural production by weeks. Mechanisation is much cheaper. This is not the first time they are imposing taxes on inputs to agriculture. They imposed a 16 per cent tax on pesticides in the last financial year and was projected to skyrocket food prices.”
Farm implements are classified as goods under plant and machinery category in Chapter 84 and 85 of the VAT Act 2013 which according to the act, they were classified as exempt goods in order to boost food production. Observers also say the move is a blow to food security.

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