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Government distributes 70,000 metric tonnes of sunflower seedlings

The National Government through the Ministry of Agriculture has launched a national distribution of free 70,000 metric tonnes of sunflower seedlings worth Sh981 million to farmers in 24 mapped counties.

The event was held at the Sunflower factory, which is owned by the Kenya Seed Company in Kitale, Trans Nzoia County.

Speaking during the event, Crops Development Principal Secretary Dr. Paul Rono said the initiative’s objective was to reduce the current cost of importation of edible oils.

“As you are aware, the country spends up to Sh117 billion annually for the importation of edible oil. This trend can be reversed through investment in sunflower farming,” remarked Rono.

Rono urged Kenyan farmers to exploit the current season of short rains, and assured them of the government’s commitment on securing ready markets once the end product is harvested.

“At the moment, the country produces about 80,000 metric tonnes of sunflower. However, with this ambitious input we should be able to produce enough for both local consumption and export,” the PS added.

The PS used the occasion and issued a stern warning to cartels accused of sabotaging government’s agenda within the agriculture sector. He appealed to the government employees to diligently offer services to members of the public.

“While we are warning cartels against interference with government programmes and projects, we expect our officers to discharge their duties effectively to enable the government deliver its pre-election promise, including a sustainable food and nutrition security,” said Rono.

Speaking at the same event, area Governor Mr. George Natembeya disclosed that the devolved unit had already identified about 20,000 acres of land for production of the sunflower crop and urged farmers to embrace the crop.

“Trans Nzoia County is the country’s food basket and close to 80 percent of farmers are involved in maize production. However, we are encouraging our farmers to adopt crop diversification to realize maximum benefits from their farms,” said Natembeya who implored the locals to embrace sunflower farming, describing it as a worthy cash crop.

The Governor urged farmers to form and join cooperative societies so that they can increase their bargaining power as well as address the problem of exploitation by unscrupulous businessmen.

“The Cooperative movement is one of the surest ways to overcome the problem of business brokers and cartels,” said Natembeya.

Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) Chairperson Mr. Cornelly Serem asked farmers to utilize the short rains to plant early maturing crops. “It is crazy that we spend over Sh100 billion importing edible oil. That must come to an end and we ask farmers to take advantage of the short rains,” Serem said.

Trans Nzoia County Commissioner Mr. Gideon Oyagi said that the county surpassed her target in the recently concluded farmers’ registration and profiling programme.  “This is a clear indication that our farmers are ready to do their part in the food and nutrition security agenda,” Oyagi said.

By Maurice Aluda

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