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How coronavirus has affected agricultural sector in Kenya

By Daisy Okanga | Kenya’s economy tops most of the African Countries with the highest risk exposure to the deadly Coronavirus ahead of other destinations where this illness has been confirmed.

The virus has been spreading quickly worldwide. It originated from Wuhan in China and has scourged through the globe with over 180 countries affected.

According to a report by South Africa’s Rand Merchant Bank, Kenya’s economy has the highest overall COVID-19 risk score of 27 points, followed by Ghana on 24 and Egypt at 23. African countries with the least risk are Nigeria with a score of 11, Botswana on 13 and Mozambique on 17.

The negative impacts on the economy have been witnessed in other countries where the stock market prices have plummeted and trade activities reduced drastically.

Kenya’s economy which largely depends on the agricultural sector, with horticultural, tea and coffee exports being the most important drivers, began feeling the pinch of the virus when trade partner countries in the sector began shutting their borders to curb the spread of the virus.

Experts have argued that the virus is most likely going to slow down the sector if not halt these exports for some time. There is likely to be a hike in the cost of farm inputs that are imported into the country, according to KLPA Kenya.

The coronavirus spat will definitely put a strain on the country’s agricultural sector which is already suffering from the desert locust invasion in some significant parts of the country.

Horticulture industry, Kenya’s third-largest foreign exchange earner, garnering around $1.15 billion (Ksh116.5 billion) annually – is already reeling from lockdowns caused by the coronavirus in its main markets in Europe. Sales of cut flowers in overseas markets has been below 35 per cent in the past month since the outbreak.

In the past one week, the industry began to see a slight steady recovery in the international market.

The demand is beginning to grow, an intimation that the flower industry could get back on track. This improvement now poses a new challenge. The available freight capacity cannot accommodate the rise in volume demand.

However, flower exporters are already calling on the government to lower the cost of exporting and make more freights available to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on the country.

Kenya Flowers Council says the available fright capacity in the country cannot accommodate most flower exporters for they were low, yet too expensive for them.

It is therefore imperative that as a country to put several measures to ensure food production continues and that food security for all Kenyans in ensured.

Amid the surge of the second phase of a swarm of locusts, there is a risk of a looming food crisis in the country despite the country having already felt the bite brought about by the coronavirus.

Border closures, quarantines, and market, supply chain and trade disruptions could restrict people’s access to sufficient/diverse and nutritious sources of food, especially in countries hit hard by the virus or already affected by high levels of food insecurity.

The effects of job losses amidst the economic downturn are at a peak, with parents in the country struggling to put food on the table for their families.

Food demand in poorer countries is more than linked to income, and with the looming loss of income-earning opportunities is already impacting on consumption.

On March 15, President Uhuru Kenyatta updated the country of the third case of coronavirus and drafted a picture of a government ready to tackle the pandemic without hurting vulnerable homes which lived from hand to mouth.

Unlike the middle-class, the virus has already brought about the disproportionate amount of pain as the unforgiving effects of virus takes toll among the poor.

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