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Agriculture sector needs more funding

Monday, May 20th, 2024 06:00 | By
A farmer inspecting her crops. PHOTO/Print
A farmer inspecting her crops. PHOTO/Print

Calls by agriculture industry players for higher budget allocations must be taken seriously, because the money contained in the 2024 Finance Bill falls far below the optimal level set in continental agreements that Kenya has signed.

For a country that is a net importer of food, it is unfathomable for the Treasury to cut the sector’s allocation for the 2024/2025 financial year by 18.6 percent to Sh79.8 billion from Sh98 billion compared with the current financial year.

The industry had proposed that the government commit to the Malabo Protocol, which mandates an allocation of 10 per cent of the total national budget to agriculture.

Instead, the estimates saw significant cuts to the budgets of the State departments for Agriculture and Livestock, with the allocation for latter dropping by 19.4 percent from Sh14.9 billion to Sh10.5 billion; Fisheries by 3.8 percent from Sh11.8 billion to Sh11.3 billion; Agriculture by 20.9 percent from Sh60.4 billion to Sh47.7 billion; and Lands and the National Land Commission (NLC) by 6.6 percent from Sh10.8 billion to Sh10.1 billion.

There are significant deficits for line Ministries, Departments, and Agencies based on their resource requirements. The Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning received 27 percent less than its optimal budget, while the State departments of Livestock; Fisheries, Aquaculture, and Blue Economy; and Crop Development and Research are 56 percent shy, with the NLC a staggering 69 percent adrift.

These cuts not only run counter to the administration’s claim that it prioritises agriculture as the bedrock for ending food insecurity but also attempts to transform the economy through import substitution, and increasing exports through value addition.

Funding to this crucial sector must reach the optimal level, with mechanisms in place to attract investments from the private sector, donors, and civil society to cover resource gaps.

The budget must also be ring-fenced so that unforeseen effects such as floods do not compel the reallocation of funds away from the sector in subsequent supplementary budgets.

If this happens, coupled with late disbursements, it could replay the high cost of living and recent food inflation, thereby reversing the gains made.

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