Farmers Call For Food Policy
By Mwakera Mwajefa, The Nation (Nairobi), 21 December 2000
Nairobi - The Government should formulate a food policy to protect farmers from cartels taking advantage of the liberalised economy.
The Kenya National Farmers' Union vice-patron, Mr. Festus Muthamia, said that without reducing taxes on farm inputs and giving credit to farmers, the sector would continue to suffer in the free market.
He asked the Government to ensure that inputs like fertilisers, machinery, chemicals and fuel oils were affordable and available to farmers.
He said it was suicidal to open up Kenya's food market to foreign traders without a framework to protect local farmers.
"We feel hurt to see imported food that can be locally produced in abundance fill our tables, hotels and supermarkets!" he exclaimed.
He said the drawing up of a policy would rein in the cartels and ensure the country's food security.
Mr. Muthamia urged the Government to transform the Agricultural Finance Corporation into a farmers' bank.
"The AFC has the experience and expertise in financing farming activities and if handed over to the farmers, it will definitely play the role it was originally established to play," he said.
He said farmers could no longer afford bank loans due to the high interest rates charged.
Asked whether the Donde Bill would benefit farmers, Mr. Muthamia said it would partially help them to obtain loans but not at the rates a farmers' bank would offer. Mr. Muthamia praised the National Cereal and Produce Board for buying grain but complained that the prices offered could not give farmers good returns.
He said the union was happy that the board was making efforts to pay farmers promptly.
He urged farmers to store their produce instead of saturating the market, which leads to the lowering of prices.
Through a loan or fund, Mr. Muthamia said, the Government could facilitate the building of grain stores that would not only assist the farmers to control produce prices but also ensure there are food reserves in the country.
He said a poor road network had led to heavy losses for farmers as their perishable produce could not reach the market in good time.
"We urge the government to remove this levy with immediate effect. Also the waiver of the lopsided presumptive income tax is urgently called for. No other business is charged before profit is realised," he said.
He challenged all farmers who have been elected or appointed to man any farming activity in the country to ensure that they lived up to the expectation of the farmers they had sort to serve.
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