Vegetable Farms Face Closure

Agriculture Business & Finance Counties

Vegetable and fruit farms in Naivasha are facing imminent closure following the COVID-19 pandemic that has seen cargo flights to various European Union markets suspended.
According to the farms management, already fifty percent of the workers have been sent home with fears that the numbers could rise in the coming days as the pandemic continued to spread in more countries.
Exports from the farms are said to have dropped by fifty percent while flight charges are said to have tripled in the last one month due to a shortage of cargo planes.
A proprietor of Naivasha based Rubi ranch, Edward Mureu said the country was staring at hunger and job losses in the coming months due to the effects of the pandemic.
Mureu added that Kenya Airways and British Airways had cancelled all their flights to EU leading to a crisis in exporting their fresh produce.
“For years we have relied on the two airways to export our produce and with their closure we have moved to other airways that are charging triple the normal prices,” he said.
Speaking during a tour of his farm on Friday Mureu regretted that the demand for their produce in various European countries had dropped sharply due to the lockdown in those countries, adding that the farms had been forced to reduce both their production and workforce.
The farmer who deals with French beans, broccoli, baby corn among other produce called on the government to zero-rate farm inputs and lower the cost of electricity tariffs to cushion them from further losses.
“The curfew has also affected us as workers have to work lesser hours and we also produce for the local market which could be affected by the current challenges,” he said.
Speaking earlier, the CEO Agricultural Employers Association (AEA) Wesley Siele said the limited movement of consumers in Europe had contributed to the drop in the exports, but added that supermarkets mainly in the UK, Sweden and Russia were still ordering for the fresh produce from the country despite the limited cargo flights.
Saying that food was a necessity despite the pandemic, the CEO added that despite the 50% drop in the vegetable produce exports, the fresh produce exporters were doing better unlike the flower farmers and called for the government support to ensure the sector does not collapse.
By Esther Mwangi and Joan Muniu

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