Export income as a result of farm produce is great to the lives of those in the business and the world in return can have a taste of what our climate does best. But the major consequence when it comes to a country’s food basket is that we are left with food shortage. We also don’t get to enjoy and nourish our bodies with what we are blessed with as much as we can. In Kenya, we are privileged to have great weather that produces the best tasting producewhich later finds its way in the gastronomical journey out of Africa to a local joint, restaurant or supermarket and finally onto a plate somewhere out there.
Nothing wrong with that, it feels nice to know that our food brand is celebrated and enjoyed out there. But it also makes me sad knowing that the little we produce is shipped and we are left with a gap and what follows is hunger. Every year as a country, we face starvation, malnutrition and cases of death as well.
Herbs, spices, beans, avocados, nuts and much more are constantly produced. These are special food items that every person living in Kenya should be able to access and enjoy…and not just ‘rejects’ but the best quality that gets exported. In fact, for export, only what qualifies as‘rejects’is what should be exported. As a country, we don’t produce enough, why even think of exporting? Over the years, many farmers depend on rain fed agriculture and withthe harsh climatic conditions we have been experiencing, it is becoming tough to produce enough food for our own consumption. So why cash on the little that is being produced or in stores by exporting?
Do you know how sweet and tasty our potatoes,avocados, fresh kale and spinach taste, may be I am the only one whose being selfish and unreasonable. The truth is that I am irritated because we have lost the argument about food. Why? May be because issue to do with food have become too basic, starvation, malnutrition and deaths don’t disturb people any longer. We have to all become farmers; we have to constantly produce enough food for ourselves first then the rest of the world. But at this stage, I suggest we export things like music and stones. This would probably make sense.
As a country, enough and variety of foods must be produced to cushion us for years. The situation as is, there is no plan the country has on what we are going to eat, we do not have a plan for the next 5, 10,15 or even 20 years, that is why last year we did not have our staple food item – maize flour and the government ended up importing the food item and subsidizing the price. Food seem not to be a priority, I see it even in politics. No political party seems to have this as number one agenda. We here insecurity, infrastructure, education and health debates taking centre stage.
Yes our food has so much charm that everyone eyes it, there is no doubt about that. And the lure to make money drives those keen to export engage in the business. I get tons of inquiries for export opportunities, so I can tell how much appetite there is out there. It is sad knowing that we are not food self-sufficient. It is even sickening knowing that we export our best produce and have to be contented with the rejects if hardly any. There is a time a client was looking for organic macadamia nutsand she could not find, she requested that I ask around and recommend businesses or farmers that have the products, and when I started asking in my circles and farmers that grow the product, there was nothing for the local market. It came to my revelation that farmers were being contracted to produce the product and the client had tight monitoring and was in constant touch with the farmers in order to guard the product. When the produce is ready and harvested, they buy it right away, dry it, value add,package and export it. Nothing is left for the farmers to enjoy or the country’s population.
Picture this, Kenya is known to producing the best tea and coffee, do Kenyan’s know how their tea or coffee taste, I can bet that most don’t. Most producers don’t know what they produce looks or tastes like. Sometimes the raw product is exported and later imported then finds its way backin the country’s retail stores and we have to pay a premium.What is fair? What is reasonable to do? What makes sense?