Business News

Limuru traders rush for last-minute permits

Published on Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - 09:57

Long queues characterised the day at the Limuru sub-county offices as business people rushed to pay for their business licences. 

The last-minute rush on Monday came after the Limuru business community met and negotiated with Kiambu Governor William Kabogo on how to pay for their licences.

A Kiambu court had ruled that it was illegal for the county government to demand payment of business licences or even collect parking fees. 

The ruling came after the county assembly passed a motion which authorised hiked fees for licences but which businessmen vehemently opposed and consequently went to court.

The bill was passed into law allegedly without participation of the stakeholders, especially the business community. The Kiambu Finance Act 2013/2014 sought to increase single business permits by between 75 percent and 200 percent.

The business community convinced the governor that there was a money leak in the Limuru sub-county which necessitated the change of where the licences were to be paid. 

Business people had to get the estimates of their permits from the sub-county office and deposit the money in the bank. They then would take the bank slips to the sub-county office to be issued with the business licences.

The deadline that ended on Monday will see business people who did not pay their licenses pay penalties for late payment. 

Nakuru farmers warned against fake pyrethrum seeds

Published on Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - 08:54

Pyrethrum farmers in Nakuru have been asked to be cautious of unlicensed traders selling unapproved pyrethrum seeds.

Speaking to journalists on Monday, Pyrethrum Regulatory Authority (PRA) managing director Alfred Busolo said they have received reports of people selling unapproved seeds.

He noted that some unscrupulous businessmen are using PRA logo to con farmers by claiming their seeds are genuine.

Busolo said investigations have been launched to net and prosecute the said businessmen, adding that PRA has not issued any licence for anyone to sell seeds on its behalf.

“We have intelligent reports of some businessmen selling fake seeds to farmers while using our logo on the packages,” he said.

The MD urged farmers to be careful and only purchase seeds and other farm inputs from authorised dealers.

He also asked farmers to use certified seeds from the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (Kari) and PRA.

Meanwhile, Mr Busolo revealed that they have received five applications from foreign investors seeking to establish pyrethrum firms in the county.

He said the applications will be scrutinised before an investor is selected to establish a firm in the county, which he said will boost morale among pyrethrum farmers.

Local tourism picks at Lake Nakuru park

Published on Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - 06:23

Local tourism is picking up at Lake Nakuru national park following President Uhuru Kenyatta’s directive to lower park entry fees, senior park warden Dickson Kitan has said.

Kitan observed that the number of local people touring the park has increased tremendously.

“We are receiving more locals than foreign tourists following the President’s directive to reduce park entry fees,” the park official said.

“More locals need to visit the park and learn the heritage of their country,” added Katan. 

Early last month, President Kenyatta directed national parks across the country to lower their entry fees in a bid to encourage local tourism.

The directive came as some Western countries issued travel advisories that saw tourists leave the country for fear of insecurity in some parts of the country.

Katan assured that security measures at the park have been heightened, saying nothing will be left to chance in terms of security.

He said the park receiving more locals than foreign tourists will boost local tourism.

Giant farmers association clears Sh1b debt

Published on Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - 16:03

The once financially-crippled Kenya Farmers Association (KFA) has settled debt arrears worth over Sh1 billion, managing director Simon Cherogony has said.

The director assured members of the Nakuru-based association that its future is now safe.

At its peak during the 1970s, the KFA was popular with farmers countrywide. It gave farmers incentives like credit facilities for farm inputs and affordable goods, which made it thrive.

After being renamed the Kenya Grain Growers Co-operative Union, the organisation started to perform poorly. The bad performance continued for over two decades.   

As a result, it started floundering, failing to pay its suppliers and creditors and engaged in dubious deals that led to the closure of its 35 branches nationwide.

The laying off of its 2,000 workers attracted numerous court cases. Banks and other litigants that it owed money also went to court. These cases saw the organisation crumble into a financial dwarf.

When Precedent Mwai Kibaki assumed power in 2002, he ordered the revival of the organisation, a move that saw it revert back to its KFA name and attract its then crop of leaders ejected from office.

However, by this time, the agricultural industry has been liberalised and KFA found itself having to struggle to new-comers in the grain and agricultural industry.

The over Sh1 billion owed to creditors had accumulated over the years.

Yesterday, Cherogony admitted that the debts owed to two commercial banks, state agencies, workers and suppliers had crippled the organisation.

Cherogony, who took over in 2006, said KFA plunged into debts in the early 1990s over poor management and the current board has been working to revive the organisation that is key in supplying farmers with farm inputs.

He said KFA has cleared over Sh700 million owed to the National Bank of Kenya and part of the Sh400 million owed to other creditors and has managed to settle the payments after selling some non-core assets.

Farmers receive pyrethrum seedlings in Molo, Kuresoi

Published on Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - 14:46

Farmers in Molo and Kuresoi region have received free pyrethrum seedlings from the Nakuru county government.

The 900,000 seedlings were issued at the Sirikwa trading centre in Kuresoi North during the second phase of the revival of pyrethrum farming in the county. The first phase was launched at Kinungi area in Naivasha last month.

Nakuru agriculture executive, Stanley Chepkwony, said the initiative is a long-term endeavour to see the pyrethrum farming prosper once again.

“I would like to assure you that this is a long-term commitment that will see the pyrethrum sector revived. Our presence here is to fully underline our readiness to recover this sector,” the executive said.

At least 360 farmers from Molo, Kuresoi North and South regions will benefit from the programme.

In the first phase, 165,000 seedlings were distributed to 28 farmers from Kinungi and surrounding areas. Each farmer received 3,000 seedlings to plant on a quarter-acre piece of land.

Chepkwony added that the county together with the Pyrethrum Regulatory Authority have already put measures in place to revive the sector.

"The revival will improve pyrethrum farmers' income and earn more revenue for the county. Farmers should go for high quality planting materials that will give them better yields," Chepkwony said.

Nakuru County has set aside Sh11 million in the 2014/15 budget to revive pyrethrum growing. It also plans to revive the Pyrethrum Board of Kenya pyrethrum nursery at Kabazi.

Middlemen using cartels to exploit farmers

Published on Monday, July 21, 2014 - 06:56

Nakuru town is cosmopolitan with most residents dependent on agriculture for survival.

Most agricultural produce come from Bahati, Ndundori, Njoro, Molo and other parts of the county. However, it is not all rosy for the farmers and the beauty ends at production usually.

Small-scale farmers do a lot of work, but when they sell their products, prices are less than what they were 15 years ago.

John Mbugua, a farmer from Bahati, owns an acre of land which he has divided into quarter acre plots. On these plots, he plants cabbages, carrots, potatoes, sukumawiki and onions.

Once the farm produce nears harvest, and while still in the farm, middlemen park their hired trucks and pick-ups and haggle for prices with the farmer. The middlemen buy directly from farmers, decide and mark-up the prices depending on the demand from traders and the amount being supplied.

“I have been doing this business for long but the situation is not getting any better. The middlemen buy a cabbage for seven shillings but they sell the same at between Sh25 and Sh30,” said Mbugua.

He adds: “All production costs have gone up. For instance, the price for a bag of fertiliser has gone up to Sh3,000. This means that I am getting less than what I got 15 years ago. For us, it is the same business but we have higher production costs.”

Jane Wanjiku, sees herself as a broker. She buys the cabbages from Mbugua and other farmers for between five and seven shillings and sells it for between Sh20 and Sh25. She makes a profit of Sh15 per cabbage.

“This is a freewill biashara (business) and I don’t regret,” Wanjiku says.

A middleman, who prefers to remain anonymous, is buying sukumawiki for Sh200 from the farmer and sells to traders at Sh600.

The brokers only buy if there are traders around or if there is a clear order from a trader. The brokers never sit on goods as farmers do when they lack buyers.

At the Nakuru open air market, the middlemen ensure by all means that the farmers do not sell directly to the traders as this would “spoil” the prices.

Seed firm provides all-inclusive marketing plan

Published on Sunday, July 20, 2014 - 13:00

A seed company in Nakuru County has initiated an all-inclusive marketing programme for vegetable farmers in the country to access market for their produce abroad.

The director of Premier Seed Company, Simon Gachagua, said the company decided to start a market abroad for farmers because of the lack of market locally.

Gachagua said that the lack of accessible markets was a major challenge and hindrance to prosperous farming.

He said the marketing company, through another known as Cross-Town, supplies the farmers with all the inputs and a greenhouse at a fee. The company then contracts farmers to grow vegetables for them.

However, once the farmers sign a contract, the farmers are expected to pay 10 percent of the Sh430,000, which is the cost of all the in-puts. Gachagua said the inputs include fertilisers, soil testing for acidity, chemicals, seeds and a greenhouse, which is insured.

That means, if the greenhouse gets damaged, the farmer can be supplied with a replacement at no cost. He said the company has already done the calculations and realised that the farmers will be able to make a profit of Sh900,000 after nine months. He said this will enable them repay the loans.

Gachagua added that the contract includes a regular visit by their experts who will ensure the farmers are following the right procedures. This is to enable the company and the farmers re-coup their profits and pay the loans comfortably.

He urged farmers to embrace new technology and turn their farms into profitable businesses like farmers in Europe and Israel. He appealed to farmers with less than five acres not to plant maize but to invest in vegetable farming in green houses because they cannot break even with maize.

Nakuru traders want compensation over demolished stalls

Published on Sunday, July 20, 2014 - 09:59

Scores of traders whose business stalls were demolished near Afraha stadium have demanded that the county government compensates them for their losses.

The traders complained that they incurred huge losses as a result of the demolitions. They said their property was destroyed and the rest looted during the demolitions.

Speaking on Saturday, the traders who had gathered to plot their next course of action, lamented that the county government was frustrating their efforts to make a decent and honest living. They said the piece of land on which their kiosks stood had been donated to them by area MP David Gikaria. Gikaria was the civic leader then in the defunct Nakuru Municipal Council.

The traders accused Nakuru Governor Kinuthia Mbugua of being insensitive to their plight.

“This is very unfair to the people for the governor to order such a demolition,” said Melisa Atieno, one of the affected business owners.

The demolitions caught many of the traders unawares and resulted in a standoff that lasted several hours. Police were forced to shoot in the air to disperse the rowdy traders who were joined by area residents. No one was injured during the incident.

Governor Mbugua has in the recent past found himself in trouble with small-scale traders over his plans to rid the town of street traders and hawkers. Mbugua has consistently said that hawking in the town and stalls have to be streamlined to ensure that the town operates in an orderly manner.

Affected traders are now planning to hold a demonstration to prevail upon the county government to rescind its decision to evict them from the town centre. 

Diversify to earn more, Nakuru farmers told

Published on Thursday, July 17, 2014 - 12:01

Farmers in Nakuru County have been urged to diversify their farming methods instead of only relying on maize.

Speaking during a farmer’s field day at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (Kari) in Njoro, research expert Paul Yegon said diversification of crops improves farmers’ profits and reduces soil acidity.

“Farmers need to embrace other crops like sweet potatoes which are in high demand due to the high prices of bread,” the research officer said.

“Kenyans have become health conscious and they have realised that sweet potatoes have beta carotene and other nutrients, which improves their health,” the Kari official added.

Yegon said that one acre of sweet potatoes was likely to earn a farmer more profits than an acre of maize, since the market is not yet flooded.

The researcher said most of the potatoes consumed in the county are sourced from western Kenya.

He showed the farmers a variety of sweet potatoes that Kari has developed for specific climate conditions of the county.

He demonstrated for the farmers on the modern way of planting sweet potatoes in ridges. The farmers were also shown how to plant using tractors.

Yegon appealed to the farmers to set aside even small portions of land and plant the sweet potatoes for their home consumption.

He lamented that farmers are yet to understand the concept of demand and supply chain and that is why they have not embraced diversification.

“If 10 farmers plant maize and the 11th one who is their neighbour plants cabbages, the cabbages will be in more demand from those who planted maize because they need vegetables for their ugali,’’ said Yegon.

Seeds shortage linked to poor potato yields

Published on Thursday, July 17, 2014 - 07:59

Lack of certified seeds has been cited as the major cause of low potato production in Naivasha, Molo and Gilgil.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Nakuru agriculture executive Stanley Chepkwony said most potato farmers in the county have no access to quality and certified seeds.

He pointed out that farmers are using fake seeds that are prone to diseases and pests. He added that a campaign to sensitise farmers on the use of approved seeds will be launched soon.

Chepkwony indicated that the county is working with several agricultural research institutions to develop quality variety of potato seeds.

“We are collaborating with several researchers including the Agricultural Development Corporation in order to come up with quality seeds. Once we have them, we can improve the yields and quality of the crop,” said Chepkwony.

He added that potato farmers will be given subsidies and market support, a move he said will encourage potato farming.

The executive further noted that road networks are being improved to ensure farmers’ produce reach the market within the required time.

Potatoes are largely grown in Naivasha, Molo, Gilgil and Njoro sub-counties.

Farm machine firm leaving over taxation laws

Published on Thursday, July 17, 2014 - 07:43

A Gilgil-based company is relocating to Asia because of the country’s harsh taxation laws.

Ndume company is one of the oldest local companies which has been assembling popular agricultural  and household machinery in Kenya and the East Africa region for the past 55 years.

The company began operations in Kenya in 1959 by manufacturing Ndume posho mills that still dot the countryside. It later diversified to a new range of modern agricultural machinery such as ploughs, water bowsers, farm trailers, planters, harrows, brick making machines and water pumps among others.

The company, located on the outskirts of Gilgil town, has started packing its bags, ready to move and their next destination is either India or China. 

Company director and co-owner Chris Outram said the reason of moving is the country’s harsh taxation regime.

“Prior to September 2013, the 16 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) charged on all materials used in the manufacturing of agricultural machinery could be reclaimed from Kenya Revenue Authority. This is no longer the case.”

The company blames the 2014/15 national budget for worsening its woes by adjusting the duty on imported steel by 25 percent. Outram said this forced the company to increase the cost of its products by 10 percent.

However, he says trouble started when the same act was amended, changing the VAT status for agricultural machinery from zero rated to exemption.

Outram laments that the net result was that the company was no longer permitted to claim VAT paid on input cost. This, he said, forced the company to adjust the cost of material by 16 percent.

The director said his company has sought the intervention of both the county and national governments, including the local MP, without any success.

He said that Kenya should start making policies that protect local investors.

Lake Naivasha ban lift ‘threatens fishery’

Published on Wednesday, July 16, 2014 - 09:06

The fisheries department in Naivasha has said that lifting the annual fishing ban in Lake Naivasha could kill the fisheries sector in the area. 

Following the ban that was lifted by the Nakuru county government a month ago, the department has confirmed that the number of poachers has increased. 

In a letter to the county government, Naivasha sub-county fisheries officer Matthew Ngila said that fish stock in the lake could be depleted by the end of this financial year. 

The letter said that it has become difficult to prevent poaching because the department does not have enough money. Ngila attributed the crisis in the lake to the high number of poachers and lack of resources. He added that his office had received Sh328,000 only for the 2014/15 financial year. 

Last month, agriculture executive Stanley Chepkwony lifted the annual fishing ban that runs between July and September. The ban is meant to restock the lake. 

“The ban has been in force for the last 14 years and it has achieved its purpose. There is need to review it now,” he said while lifting the ban. 

Lake Naivasha fisheries management committee chairman David Ndirangu confirmed receiving a copy of the letter. He said there was a crisis in the lake and the fisheries department does not have an operational boat or a vehicle to work with. 

Ndirangu said Nakuru County could be blamed for having lifted the annual ban. He added that the main reason for the crisis was lack of capacity in the fisheries department. 

He said an earlier attempt by some fishermen and fisheries officers to deal with poachers was met with resistance. Some of the fishermen and officers were injured. 

Ndirangu said the issue can be solved if the office got more funding from the county government. 

Banking disputes resolution centre to ease case backlogs

Published on Friday, July 11, 2014 - 17:23

Case backlogs constitute the single biggest source of public frustration, according to the Judiciary of Kenya. 

In addition to speeding up the litigation process through enhanced capacity, additional high court judges and use of ICT to address inefficiencies, the judiciary also supports alternative dispute resolution (ADR) practices. 

Speaking at a reception to mark the first case that was successfully mediated at the Banking Industry Mediation Centre based at Strathmore University, Judiciary Chief Registrar Anne Amadi observed that ADR reduces the number of court hearings while enhancing access to justice.

The mediation centre was started to ease some of the case disputes by seeking alternative and faster solutions.
 
"Strathmore Law School was founded as an open forum for the exchange of knowledge between society, academia and industry,” said Luis Franceschi, the Strathmore Law School dean.

“This pilot project for mediation and conflict resolution confirms that strong collaborations between academia and industry can help solve existing challenges while strengthening trust and building good and lasting bank-client relations,” the dean added.

The six-month pilot provides the banking public with complimentary access to trained, practising mediators until mid-September 2014. 

The banks that have volunteered to participate include Barclays, Equity, Family, Housing Finance and Gulf African.
 
The managing director of Housing Finance, Frank Ireri, said: “We are pleased to participate in this pilot programme because financial services can be complicated and sensitive. Both customers and banks need to first employ various options in an effort to reach an amicable agreement whenever disputes arise.”

“Certainly there are cases which would go to court, but the goal is to minimise costs on both sides and maintain relationships,” he added.
 
The pilot centre was conceptualised by the Kenya Bankers Association following the enactment of the Consumer Protection Act 2012 that acknowledges the need for dispute resolution mechanisms.

Atwoli: dismissal of Unilever tea workers illegal

Published on Friday, July 11, 2014 - 06:32

Cotu secretary general Francis Atwoli has told an industrial court that Unilever Tea Company has subjected dismissed workers to untold suffering after eviction orders were issued against them. 

In a supporting affidavit filed in court, Atwoli said Unilever has subjected a group of workers dismissed on allegations of violating an agreement to a lot of suffering, family separation and mental torture.
 
The court heard that the Kericho-based tea company dismissed a group of workers on diverse dates between November 2013 and April 2014 on allegations of violating a document termed as Code of Business Principles. 

The tea company is also accused of evicting the workers from their residential quarters, while fully aware that they were planning to appeal against the dismissal. 

Atwoli said that grounds for dismissal of the workers are suspect as they do not impact on the employer-employee relationship and no terms of service that bound the parties were breached. He averred that the impending dispute could be subjected to reconciliation under the law pertaining to labour relations to resolve both the eviction and dismissal. 

The Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union on Thursday moved to the industrial court to stop the eviction orders by the tea company claiming the code of business principles was not brought to the attention of the employees. 

The union’s lawyer Mutua Muli told Justice Byram Ongaya that the dismissal raised serious issues which if not addressed, amount to injustice as the dismissal do not conform to the law.

Justice Ongaya granted the application and stopped the company from evicting the dismissed workers pending hearing and determination of the application. 

Skilled farmers urge youth to embrace agriculture

Published on Thursday, July 10, 2014 - 12:27

Farmers in Naivasha are challenging the youth to utilise the Uwezo and Youth funds and engage in farming.

Peter Mwaniki, a successful farmer in his 50s, called on the youths to drop the notion that farming is an occupation for old people.

Mwaniki, a farmer for 29 years in Kihoto, argued that investing in farming will create jobs for the unemployed youths in the country.

“I have been a farmer for 29 years and I have seen a lot of young people waste their time and money trying to chase a huge salary. In the end, they get stuck in their comfort zones, not ready to think positively on other choices like farming.

He was speaking at a youth forum in Kihoto, where he claimed that agribusiness in the area was picking up.

Mwaniki grows spinach, sukuma wiki (kales) and tomatoes along the shores of Lake Naivasha.

He added that through his efforts and commitment, he has been able to rent out part of his land to three other farmers, who are all aged.

Mwaniki pledged his commitment to help the youths who are interested by giving them free advice. He said that if need be, he would also provide seedlings to the youth to start their farming business.

“We encourage them to venture into serious farming. The youth can actually make more money and gain satisfaction than in full time employment,” he added.

Unilever launches contest for young entrepreneurs

Published on Thursday, July 10, 2014 - 09:59

Young and creative entrepreneurs stand to win Sh24 million in a contest for innovative solutions to the world’s biggest sustainability challenges. 

The Unilever Sustainable Living Young Entrepreneurs Awards, which is in its second year, targets entrepreneurs aged 30 and below. 

In the contest, Unilever is looking for scalable and sustainable products, services or applications that reduce environmental impact, improve health and well-being. The products should also enhance livelihoods through changes in practices or behaviours. 

Seven winners will take home a €200,000 (Sh24 million) financial support and free mentorship. The awards are run in partnership with the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership in collaboration with Ashoka. 

The overall winner will receive the prestigious HRH The Prince of Wales Young Sustainability Entrepreneur Prize. 

“Youth hold the key to unlocking solutions to many of the challenges our planet faces,” said Unilever chief executive Paul Polman.

“Young people will soon represent 50 percent of the population in developing and emerging countries, but they are 100 percent of the future, so it’s absolutely vital we continue enrolling them in the task of making sustainable living commonplace and invest in their ideas,” Polman added. 

The seven finalists will take part in an online development programme and then participate in a two-day accelerator workshop at Cambridge University, UK. At Cambridge, the finalists will receive expert help and professional guidance to help them develop their ideas. 

Submission of entries closes on August 1 2014 and finalists will be announced in October this year. 

The Cambridge accelerator workshop and final judging takes place in January 2015. 

Last year, more than 500 young entrepreneurs from more than 90 countries entered the awards.

This contest comes after Unilever Kenya recently launched the third edition of the ‘Idea Trophy’, an inter-university innovation competition that focuses on the development of personal and entrepreneurial competencies amongst Kenyan undergraduates.

Tomato prices double over heavy rains

Published on Thursday, July 10, 2014 - 08:59

Heavy rains currently ongoing in Nakuru County have adversely affected the supply of tomatoes leading to a 90 per cent price hike. 

A crate of tomatoes which was selling at Sh4,500 two weeks ago is retailing at Sh7,500 at the Nakuru open air market. 

A tomato trader, Jane Wanjira, said the tomatoes previously supplied from neighbouring areas such as Subukia and Rumuruti are now in short supply following the heavy rains. The rains have affected the quality of tomatoes and traders are being forced to import the commodity from the Kenya-Tanzania border. 

Wanjira lamented that the high cost of transportation and the commodity being perishable are adversely affecting profit margins. This has forced the traders to sell one tomato at ten shillings to meet the cost. 

The mother of three who has been in this trade for more than 18 years however explained that she cannot quit the business. Mama Sophie, as she is normally called by her colleagues, said the business has assisted her educate her children, put up a shelter and also feed them. 

A customer who came shopping for the tomatoes asked the government to intervene and save the poor from exploitation by the traders. She said that the high prices for basic commodities favoured only the rich.

The price hikes also come after the discovery of a pest that may decimate tomato production in the country. The green leaf minor has been detected in many toamto growing parts of the country.

Uhuru promises inclusive growth as he meets IMF officials

Published on Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - 17:51

President Uhuru Kenyatta has met a high-level delegation from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which paid him a courtesy call at State House Nairobi.

The team, led by the assistant director of the IMF’s African department, Mauro Mecagni, has been in the country to assess the country’s economic development and discuss the next round of financing from the institution.

President Kenyatta affirmed the government’s commitment to working with the IMF and other international institutions to uplift the living standards of Kenyans.

The President said the implementation of fiscal devolution, and the ongoing reform agenda in the country, would bring the economy to middle-income status and ensure more inclusive growth that creates jobs for the youth.

Mecagni praised the government for adopting fiscal policies that focused on sustainability, while allowing for infrastructure investments in key sectors such as roads and power.

During the tour, the team met officials from the National Treasury, the Central Bank of Kenya and parliament, among others, to conduct the Kenya 2014 Article IV Consultation which provides an opportunity to review recent economic developments in the country.

The IMF conducts annual economic reviews of its member-states through the Article IV Consultation, which among other things, examines economic gains made by countries since the last review.

Earlier, the President bid farewell to outgoing Israeli Ambassador to Kenya Gil Haskel whose tour of duty in the country has ended.

Kenya risks losing EU flower market

Published on Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - 14:55

Kenya risks losing its European Union flower market if it fails to adopt the free trade area scheme in three months’ time, the Kenya Flower Council (KFC) chief executive Jane Ngige has warned.
 
Ngige said the country’s flower exports would be exposed to EU import duties going as high as 12 percent if the government failed to sign the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) by October 1 this year. 

“The government needs to speedily address any issues likely to deter the signing of the EPAs. If not, the country will not evade the imposition of the EU import duties on flower exports,” Ngige said during the floriculture stakeholders’ roundtable meeting in Nakuru on Tuesday. 

Kenya constitutes 38 percent of the total rose cut flowers exported to the EU, making it the leading exporter. Some of the export destinations for the Kenyan cut flowers within the bloc include the UK, Germany and the Netherlands. 

In Kenya, more than half a million people depend on the floriculture industry both directly and indirectly. Statistics from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics indicate that the country exported 124,858 tons in 2013, bringing in a total foreign revenue of Sh 46.3 billion.

The EPAs give preferential treatment to trading partners but several groups of people who feel the agreements are oppressive have opposed the signing.

TradeMark East Africa has previously said that Kenya will be drifting away from the objectives of the East African Integration if it goes ahead to sign the EPAs.

Trade experts in Uganda have seen Kenya’s deliberate move to sign EPAs in its individual capacity and not as an EAC block as a move geared towards jeopardising the regional integration process.

Deputy President William Ruto has said the government would do all within its responsibility to ensure the EPAs are signed within the period to guarantee tax-free treatment of Kenyan goods in European Union countries.

Agriculture CS reveals food security plans

Published on Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - 09:59

The Brazilian Government will supply 1,500 tractors of various capacities in efforts to promote agriculture in the country, Cabinet Secretary Felix Koskei has said.

The Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries CS said the plan is one of the government’s projects aiming at increasing agricultural production through mechanisation, which is presently at a low level of 30 percent.

“This translates to three tractors per 1,000 hectares,” said Koskei.

Speaking during the official opening of the Nakuru Agricultural Society of Kenya national show, the cabinet secretary said Kenya has not attained food self-sufficiency despite the food security interventions and initiatives that have been undertaken by both the national and county governments.

“In the year 2013, maize production was 39 million bags compared to the annual consumption of 45 million bags,” he noted.

Koskei promised farmers that they would have a timely and reliable supply of fertiliser as the government had already put in place a long-term sustainable strategy for establishing a fertilizer manufacturing plant in the country.

“An investor has been identified and feasibility study completed. Eldoret is the proposed site for the factory,” said the cabinet secretary.

He pointed on the government’s priority in agriculture in budget allocation and also in ensuring that seeds and fertiliser reach more farmers through their nearest National Cereals and Produce Board depots located throughout the country.

“In the current financial year, my ministry has allocated a total of Sh 2.5 billion to purchase subsidised fertiliser and Sh500 million to promote certified seeds,” added Koskei.

State considers KPCU bailout

Published on Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - 06:59

The government is considering a financial bailout for the Kenya Planters' Co-operative Union (KPCU), now under receivership, a source has revealed. 

The Ministry of Industrialisation and Enterprise Development source has confirmed that the State has renewed interest in the once vibrant farmers' organisation, adding that financial bailout is one of the measures being considered. 

Top on the agenda is how much money the government is willing to inject into the institution.

“The government has lined up a number of strategies to revive KPCU, among other dormant cooperative societies. One strategy you cannot rule out is injecting a substantial amount of money to bail out the institution,” the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said. 

Commissioner of Cooperatives Patrick Musyimi explained that the government’s role is to ensure the society is back on track to carry out its role along the coffee value chain. 

“We have been working with the board and agreed on the new development,” said Musyimi. 

The Kenya Commercial Bank placed KPCU under receivership in October 2009. Deloitte Consulting company was appointed receiver managers over its failure to repay a Sh644 million debt. 

Its assets were almost auctioned a year later but the government intervened. In July 2012, the government facilitated the election of a caretaker board chaired by David Gatei but the board complains of lack of support from government. 

“The board had appealed a for a capital injection of Sh1.2 billion from the State but the latter declined, citing lack of sound governance and development,” stated Musyimi.

Date set to license pyrethrum investors

Published on Tuesday, July 8, 2014 - 07:55

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Felix Koskei has revealed that investors willing to set up pyrethrum industries in Nakuru will be licensed before the end of this year.

Speaking after meeting with directors of the Pyrethrum Regulatory Authority (PRA) in Nakuru over the weekend, Koskei said the investors will be vetted to ensure the right people are given the greenlight to set up industries.

He directed PRA to convene an urgent meeting that will address issues facing the sector fast-track payment of pension arrears to its workers before the end of this financial year. 

The authority owes workers over Sh1 billion in arrears.

At the same time, Koskei defended the government’s move to allocate Sh300 million to the pyrethrum sector, saying the funds are meant to spur liberalisation. He said the money allocated to the sector in the last two financial years was sourced from elsewhere.

“The national government has so many priority areas to fund and this allocation is meant to liberalise the sector. This year’s allocation is meant to ensure the sector picks up and encourage farmers to continue growing the crop,” he said.

The CS asked the private sector to come in and help revive the industry that has stalled for years. He said it would not be easy to revive it since the sector has been badly affected by corruption and mismanagement.

Last week, Pyrethrum Growers Association chairman Justus Monda questioned the government’s commitment to revive the sector.

He said the Sh300 million allocation to the sector was insufficient and called for more funding to revive the industry.

Matatus make losses as travellers stay home

Published on Monday, July 7, 2014 - 14:43

Matatu owners are counting losses after people boycotted travelling long distances for fear of the Saba Saba rally.

In Naivasha, the vehicles remained parked as they waited for customers at the ever-busy bus terminal. This was very different from what the usual days look like for most matatu operators.

“It is past one o’clock and yet we have not made any trip to Nakuru. At this time, we would have made about three trips on an ordinary day,” said Peter Ngunyi, a matatu driver.

Ngunyi complained that business was slow and prayed that it would pick up while the passengers grumbled that vehicles were taking too long to fill up. Many of the travellers had to go back home as the wait for matatus became unbearable.

“I was supposed to go to Nakuru where I work but I waited for more than two hours before the vehicle could fill up. I decided to go back to my house and sleep,” said Jane Wangui.

Farmers transporting fresh produce were also stranded for hours as lorry drivers boycotted going to Nairobi.

John Maina, a farmer who sells potatoes at Wakulima market, expressed fears that if the rallies continue, most of the produce would go to waste.

“As farmers, our major challenge is transportation. We fear that if these rallies are not contained, many of us will remain on our farms instead of bringing the goods to Naivasha from Kinangop and end up stranded,” he lamented.

New tomato pest threatens farmers’ crops

Published on Monday, July 7, 2014 - 08:24

A new destructive type of pest is causing tomato and other horticultural crop farmers’ sleepless nights in the country.

Farmers are now wary that the new leaf miner pest is likely to cause them massive losses if not checked.

The US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey Programme has said the migratory leaf miner, scientifically known as “Tuta absoluta”, originated from South America. The leaf miner, discovered seven years ago, is considered an economically damaging pest that can have a devastating effect if not arrested in good time.

Agriculture, Livestock and fisheries Cabinet Secretary Felix Koskei said the spread of the insect for long distances is as a result of tomato trade. He added that the pest has the ability to move several kilometres by flying or drifting with the wind.

Koskei said there is a huge threat to the horticultural sector in the country. Tomato farming generates more than Sh14 billion annually.

The Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (Kari) said the pest has so far been identified in Kirinyaga, Nairobi, Njoro, Meru, Kakamega, Lamu and Loitoktok.

The leaf miner moth also attacks other vegetable crops, including eggplants, peppers and potatoes. The USDA report added that the pest lays its eggs on the underside of the leaves, and penetrates into the stem and eventually to the fruits destroying up to 70 percent of the crops.

Farms in Bahati have been devastated following a previous attack by the pest. The farmers could not hide their desperation as they lamented the high price of pesticides.

Local stakeholders have urged the government to move with speed and subsidise pesticides and pheromone traps to make them affordable to farmers. They said they can only salvage their crops if the prices are reduced.

Kenya to save Sh40b by adopting geothermal power

Published on Friday, July 4, 2014 - 19:34

Kenya will save close to Sh44 billion used to import diesel for power generation once the geothermal steam is converted to electricity, a geothermal generation company official has said. 

Geothermal Development Company (GDC) managing director Silas Simiyu said the national electricity grid will be expanded in a move to reduce power bills drastically. This is after investors tap into the 479 megawatts (MW) produced by the company.

“There is heavy infrastructural development ongoing at Menengai. We are constructing a steam gathering network to collect the steam to the power plants,” Dr Simiyu explained.

“Menengai will be the fastest developed field in the world to produce in less than five years,” he added. 

New funding from Germany’s KfW Development Bank and from the Geothermal Risk Mitigation Fund will also see the firm opening up the Baringo-Silali block – which has a potential of about 3,000MW. 

The injection of geothermal-generated power into the national grid will reduce the cost of electricity and that of doing business. 

Calculations show that geothermal energy is the cheapest at Sh7 per kilowatt hour. Diesel-generated electricity is the most expensive at Sh35 per kilowatt hour while wind sells at Sh12 per kilowatt hour.

Normally, geothermal projects worldwide take time to complete. The Olkaria Power Project in Naivasha took 30 years before the first megawatt could be generated. 

“At GDC, we came up with a model of early generation. That is why you see that investors can come and put up small power plants that will quickly add power to the grid,” he added. 

The director revealed that the company has also managed to reduce the cost of drilling by almost a half. 

A parliamentary report indicates that GDC has 59 geothermal energy wells at Olkaria and 22 in Menengai. Steam from Olkaria will be used to support the 280MW power plant that is set to start generation by the end of this year. 

In Menengai where GDC opened the green field in 2010, 100MW of power will be generated by mid-2015. 

Currently, the total generation in Kenya is about 1,700MW.

Land defaulters owe Nakuru Sh2.4b, says official

Published on Friday, July 4, 2014 - 11:04

Land defaulters owe Nakuru county government over Sh2 billion arrears in terms of rates, an official has said.

Speaking to the press in Nakuru town on Thursday, county head of revenue collection Salome Ng’ang’a said land defaulters have failed to pay their rates amounting to billions in the just ended 2013-2014 financial year.

She stated that failure to pay rates has hampered provision of services especially in the lands sector.

Nga’ng’a cited Nakuru town, Naivasha, Molo and Gilgil as the huge defaulters.

She observed that huge debts were inherited from the defunct municipalities and county councils.

“We are owed over Sh2.4 billion in unpaid land-based revenue, she said, adding that debtors will be give a waiver period through which to make the payments.

She noted that it’s against the constitution for people to evade payment of revenue, adding that those who will fail to pay the rates will be arrested and charged in court.

The official stated that the county has launched a campaign to sensitise the public on the importance of paying rates.

Operator explains the bodaboda industry's 'need for speed'

Published on Friday, July 4, 2014 - 10:28

The motorbike transport business, commonly known as “bodaboda", has transformed commuting from one place to another, regardless of terrain, time or cost.

The bodaboda has changed how people travel as it is affordable. Most people who would otherwise have had to walk have found a mode of transport that suits the pocket and saves time.

Bodabodas are vital to not only commuters but business enterprises as they also ferry goods and services faster in gridlocked towns. The bikes have become essential, especially during rush hours in the mornings and evenings. 

In the rural areas, some roads are in terrible conditions and the bodaboda rarely gets stuck so it becomes a preferred mode of transport.

To understand the bodaboda business, James Kinyanjui, a bodaboda operator for the last eight years in Nakuru town, said that the notorious high speeds are due to the increasing demand for the bikes’ services. 

“Some bodaboda operators graduated from bicycle riding and thus have confidence. Adjusting to the high speeds comes with experience built over time,” said Kinyanjui.

He added: “There are other riders who are thrilled by high speeds and enjoy the rides. Others are in a rush to make as much money as possible and so the need for speed. If you are slow as a bodaboda rider, you will end up working long hours to make up for the lost time.”

Kinyanjui cautions the motorcyclists to be more vigilant to avoid unnecessary deaths occasioned by the rampant motorbike accidents. He also requests the inexperienced riders to avoid speeding to help reduce the number of accidents on the roads.

Nakuru town police boss Bernard Kioko said officers are always on the lookout for speeding riders. He said those caught flouting traffic rules will be punished and penalised to curb disorder in the transport sub-sector.

Bodabodas became common during retired President Mwai Kibaki's regime.

Naivasha inmates plead for presidential pardon

Published on Thursday, July 3, 2014 - 15:59

Inmates at Naivasha Maximum prison have expressed disappointment after none of them was released during the recent presidential pardon. 

On Tuesday, President Uhuru Kenyatta pardoned at least 50 prisoners serving life sentences. The prisoners were quietly released through the power of mercy commission from prisons across the country. 

Inmates from Naivasha prison pleaded with the president to consider them, saying they were already reformed and were ready to serve the nation.

Kaberia Itaaru, an author of four books and who is serving a life sentence, said that he was a changed man. He has already served ten years behind bars for robbery with violence.

“The president should also have considered inmates from this facility. Unfortunately, the presidential pardon committee did not pick anyone from this facility,” he added.

Another inmate, Peter Kamau, who is currently pursuing his bachelor’s degree through distance learning at Strathmore University, argued that they needed a second chance.

“I am not the same man who went behind bars years ago. I have learnt a lot and I have reformed completely. I just want to go and be with my family,” he said.

Officer in charge of the prison, Patrick Mwenda, appealed to the president to consider them in the next round of pardons.

“We have so many people who have served more than 20 years. They have been sentenced to life imprisonment but I feel that they have learnt their lessons in the 20 years,” he added.

Farmers urged to diversify into SMEs to qualify for loans

Published on Thursday, July 3, 2014 - 13:20

Small-scale farmers have been urged to venture into other Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to enable them access loans. 

Speaking at a workshop in Nakuru, Naphtali Makori, a loan manager at K-rep Bank, said most financial institutions only give financial support to large-scale and not subsistence farmers. 

“Financial institutions find it difficult to give loans to farmers because most farming activities take too long to generate income. Also, majority of the farmers generate income once or twice a year,” he said.

He said another habit which hinders small-scale farmers from getting loans from banks is lack of records. 

“Most small scale farmers do not keep records of their farming activities. Inputs and expenses records are not usually available and as a result, it is not easy to ascertain the profitability and cash flow of a farmer,’’ said the loan manager. 

Giving an example of maize, he said it takes between four to seven months from planting to harvesting depending on the variety planted and location of the farm.
 
“Since income for farmers takes too long and it is only realised after harvesting, banks find it difficult to support such unreliable enterprises,’’ he told the farmers.
 
Makori added that even poultry farming is not easy to loan money since broilers take about five months and that depends on absence of diseases. 

"This then means that in the intervening period, the farmer has no reliable income that the bank can depend on to pay the loan,’’ said the manager. 

He urged farmers to manage their farming activities just like any other business for them to be considered credit worthy by banks.

Unilever launches 3rd edition of inter-university innovation contest

Published on Thursday, July 3, 2014 - 08:52

The Unilever Idea Trophy, an inter-university innovation competition that focuses on the development of personal and entrepreneurial competencies among Kenyan undergraduates, has been launched. 

Speaking during the third edition launch, Bruce Odhiambo, the chairman of the Kenya Youth Enterprise Development Fund, said the initiative will help more Kenyan youths benefit from the rapid expansion that is being experienced across Africa. 

Odhiambo urged businesses to use their expertise and set aside resources to train and equip young people to fit in the changing job market. 

“Kenya and Africa at large has a very large pool of talent which is ready to take the world by storm. To achieve this growth and for Africa to be a success story, we need to make sure that we are skilled and strategically placed to tap into all available opportunities,” he said. 

Odhiambo noted that growth in sub-Saharan Africa is set to accelerate in 2014, buoyed by large investments in various sectors.

James Jakachira, the brand building director at Unilever East Africa said: "The Idea Trophy initiative fosters innovation and supports the government in its efforts towards national economic growth. It is open to students from five public and private universities who will be required to generate and submit innovative ideas on creating brand awareness." 

The students will also need to show the growing usage of the brand among their peers in the target schools. In addition they will develop business plans while those qualifying for the final stage will present execution plans which will then be judged for the ultimate prizes.

The competition will run for a month and targets over 500 students aged 25 and below who will be required to form teams of three. The competition is open to the University of Nairobi, Kenyatta University, Strathmore University, JKUAT and Moi University.

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