Category Archives: Agriculture

Food Imports to Kenya

While there have been several discussions about maize and other food imports to Kenya  such as where the maize came from, who is selling it, and at what price, more is on the way to deal a national disaster situation, partly attributed to delayed rains and prolonged drought.

Writing in a recent opinion piece in the Standard, James Nyoro, government advisor (who was previously the Rockefeller Foundation’s Managing Director, Africa, and probably the next Deputy Governor of Kiambu), wrote that food imports are normal for Kenya… in normal years, Kenya imports 30% of maize, 75% of wheat, 45% of sugar and 80% of its rice needs.

This comes at a time when all of Africa is talking about embracing agri-business and getting more people and more value out of agriculture. Kenya is probably in a very good place, as it  produces lots of foods, does a lot of local consumption and international exports, and has good networks and communications tools for farmers and government, but still, there is little finance to agriculture, and a lot of prime agricultural lands is being converted to real estate or commercial uses.

The Cabinet Secretary for Treasury recently gazetted and listed companies that were allowed to import duty free, non-GMO, yellow maize to be used for animal feed including Unga Farmcare 36,000 metric tonnes, Pembe Feeds 20,000, Isinya Feeds 50,000, Sigma Feeds 50,000, Milele Feeds 20,000, Mombasa Maize Millers 36,000, Chania Feeds 4,000, Farmers Choice 30,000, Naku Modern Feeds 2,000, Pioneer Feeds 3,000, Empire Feeds 10,000, Tosha Feeds 90,000, Turbo Feeds 1,000, Treasure Feeds 3,000, Economy Farm Feeds 1,000, Prosper Properties 2,000, Legorn Feeds 3,000 , Huduma Feeds 6,000, Eden Millers 5,000, Ohami Feeds 1,000, Tarime Feeds 1,000, and Thika Farmers Group 36,000 metric tonnes

He also set published temporary rules for white maize, sugar, milk, and dates: The ones for white maize included Any person may import white maize if it meets the following conditions—

• The white maize shall not be genetically modified in accordance with the standards applicable in the European Union; i.e it shall not be genetically modified (GMO) maize.
• It shall have a moisture content not exceeding 14.5%;
• It’s aflatoxin levels shall not exceed 10 parts per million;
• It shall be accompanied by a certificate of conformity issued by a company appointed by the Kenya Bureau of Standards; and
• It shall have been imported on or before the 31st July, 2017.
• Any person may import dates during the month of Ramadhan.

In a separate notice, he authorized there be no duty on sugar imported between May 11 and 31 July 2017 and as well as on 9,000 tonnes of milk powder imported by milk processors authorized by the Kenya Dairy Board.

Kenya Markets & Agriculture Pricing of Maize, Potatoes, and Milk

What drives the agriculture pricing of maize, potatoes, and milk in Kenya? Part I of a post by  @kwambokalinda of M-Farm

In commercial agriculture, as in any business venture, the aim is to make a profit on an investment, within the environmental and policy framework available for the sector. It is, however, not in question that there exist unsavoury practices practically the world over. Recent potato, maize and milk shortages in the weeks between March 2017 and the present day illustrate as much.

That said, it is pertinent that fault is placed where it lies, and speaking to traders in the Kenyan potato, milk and maize value chains, it was gathered that low rainfall in November 2016, as well as with the rains in April, led to price fluctuations in the weeks after February 2017. Mitigating circumstances lowered prices during the same period, when traders sourced their produce in areas that had rainfall in November 2016, such as;

  • In the case of potatoes, this included Narok and Mau Narok, which are blessed with forest rains and fertile lands in Tanzania.
  • With milk, rains in April meant that costs to access to main roads went up – and with farmers unable or unwilling to ease traders’ burden, the costs are being transferred on to consumers.
  • As for maize, a 90-kilo bag which a farmer sold at Kshs 2,200 in December, had doubled by March 2017: Meanwhile, millers have been consistently buying the maize at Kshs 4,700 per bag

We have to remember to factor such matters into our plans and budgets as Kenyans. Also, we have learned that it takes the government a lengthy period to act or even plan for such occurrences. It would help to have neutral sources of data alongside that of the government to help shape the response to food security challenges in Kenya.

See also, Secrets of a Farm Middle Man 

$1 = Khs 103

TEF Forum 2016 Part II

Tony Elumelu, a Nigerian businessman is considered one of the most influential business people in Africa. He’s been an advocate for seed financing and angel investing for entrepreneurship across the continent, something that he’s dubbed “Africapitalism” and advances this through the Tony Elumelu Foundation entrepreneurship program that has seven pillars including mentorship, online resources, the annual forum, seed capital funding, and an alumni network.

Dr. Awele Elumelu and Tony ElumeluAt a Q&A session during the 2016 forum in Lagos, Elumelu spoke of his desire to expand the awareness of the program which currently has applicants skewed in Anglophone African countries (Nigeria had almost 1/3 of the applicants, followed by Kenya, Uganda, and Ghana). He said he’d been asked in France if this meant anglophone countries were more entrepreneurial but he said they were more aware of the program, and that he wanted to see more Francophone and North African participation in the program

He also spoke of his desire to grow the program even larger through partnerships with other organizations, one of which is the African Development Bank to match, and therefore double,  the number of fellows that the program is supporting.

Parminder Vir, the CEO of the Foundation also said that the 6-year-old organization would be  rebranding several aspects of the two-year fellowship program and that all initiatives will be realigned under the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF). So there will be the TEF  entrepreneurship capital management , TEF entrepreneurship hub, and TEF research & advocacy etc.

 TEF Forum at the Nigeria Law SchoolVir said they had also built a platform to link partners and the diaspora with the entrepreneurs and which can be vital to the program (e.g. Nigeria get $62 billion from the USA in remittance). She asked entrepreneurs to engage on the unique social network (not facebook or snapchat) as the platform is unique for investors thought leaders, partners, funders –  VCs, PEs, Angels who want to come to Africa and now would now have access to 65,000 entrepreneurs in the  54 countries who were  pipeline of bankable investments, and 2,000 have who had already received advanced entrepreneurship training.

Already the entrepreneurs who are diverse sectors, use the platform to share their stories, engage each other, network, market to each other, pose and get solutions to problems they face. This platform also forms valuable data for research and trends and they will be producing more research reports to market to the diaspora and potential partners.

The largest sector of those supported in the 2006 cohort are in agriculture (27%) followed by fashion/clothing and ICT, and about 1/3 are women. Vir said they were committed to supporting 20-40% of agri-entrepreneurs every year and this was echoed by other participants including former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo.

The next class admission class to the Tony Elumelu entrepreneurship program will start in  January 2017.

Understanding Telephone Farming

Many people in Nairobi and other towns and in the diaspora are ‘telephone farmers’. These are people who own or have  bought, or inherited land, buildings, equipment on rural farm that they now support. They send money a few times  a month for salaries and for operations of  agricultural ventures that never seem to  have any significant payback.

The owners probably read the Saturday newspapers with envy as they see other farmers holding up rabbits, bananas, watermelons or other bounty from their farms which earn them thousands of shillings every week or month.

banana

The difference between them and the typical telephone farmer is that they are active investors as farmers, not passive which is what a faraway telephone farmer is.  That leads to the first point about telephone farming.

  • The goal of telephone farming is asset preservation, not income generation, and doing some economic activity on a distant farm protects it from invasion by squatters or grabbers.
  • The social aspect: Telephone farming sustains the local community; it keeps a line of communication open and allows for the community to have a stake in the preservation of the asset as they go about their business. The picture (above) depicts what should be a banana farm, but clearly the beans the workers are growing in the same field are doing much better. There might be pilferage, misuse of equipment, or other losses: but they should be within tolerable limits and not erode the underlying assets.
  • The costs of farming are much lower for telephone farmers compared to other businesses  investment in urban areas. E.g. labour costs are much lower: an amount of  Kshs 2,000 is a salary on many farms, but that could be an electricity bill in Nairobi.
  • A good rule of thumb for the telephone farmer is to be present at the farm during major operations like planting and harvesting.

Kenya – Dubai: Fresh Exports & Chamber Commerce Trade

There’s a delegation from the Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry in Nairobi this week and they were hosted by the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI). The Dubai Chamber announced that they will open a representative office in Nairobi, their fourth in Africa, after Addis, Accra and Maputo – to do market research, discover opportunities for partnership and value addition, support Dubai businesses in Kenya and give Kenyans information about business opportunities in Dubai.

dubai-flag

Kiprono Kittony said Kenya imports about $900 million from Dubai and exports about $300 million. He said that some challenges of business in Kenya include double taxation between the counties, infrastructure to the counties, corruption, but that he saw endless trade opportunities for their 14,000 members in 45 counties.

Naushad Merali said that when he first went to Dubai in 1982, it was smaller than Mombasa, but it had since transformed, thanks to Sheikh Mohammed’s leadership.  He said Kenya was one country with a stable currency and Dubai investors would not have to worry about moving money in and out the country – and that while manufacturing was difficult due to dumping from Asia, the advantage was if you were doing agro business, especially of things that are grown here. A Stanbic bank executive said they were the largest bank in Africa said they were ready to finance projects in infrastructure energy, renewable energy, tourism, electricity transmission etc. – and that while banks are able to do projects of $25 – $ 60 million, with larger than $100 – $200 million, ones there was need to syndicate across borders.

bananas-for-dubai

Hot button issue. Kittony also spoke of Kenyan flowers that go to Amsterdam and then get re-shipped to Dubai. He added that Kenya had developed a disease-free livestock belt that could export to Dubai and the Gulf states (GCC). Someone else said that there are only 5 Kenyan fresh products on Dubai supermarket shelves (including mango and avocado) out of a potential 70 others, and  lots of fresh stuff is sent to Europe where it is repacked and relabeled before being shipped to Dubai. While someone else said the lack warehouses and charter flights from Mombasa and Eldoret were the problem, another said that there were 14 Emirates flights a week, along with others from Kenya Airways and Etihad (and Qatar) – so flight were not the problem. Another said that Kenya had simply not marketed itself fully to Dubai in terms of what it could produce and export and get to Dubai via a 4 hours flight or a 12 day ship ride. Kiprono later lamented that flights flew into Eldoret, full of cargo, and flew out largely empty – while they could carry flowers, coffee, bamboo and other things.