In Summary
  • High food standards are key in access and retention of market.
  • Currently, an average Kenyan farmer produces 4-6 tonnes of potatoes per hectare but the new seeds can produce over 40 tonnes.
  • Food safety is very important because when there is question on safety of your produce, you lose market confidence.
  • Investment in agriculture helped Ireland cut poverty and the same can happen in Kenya. Agriculture will put money into farmers pockets besides improving household nutrition.

Kenya and Ireland last week signed a five-year agreement to enable local farmers export produce to the Irish market. Leopold Obi spoke to Dr Vincent O'Neill, the Irish Ambassador to Kenya on how the deal will benefit farmers and what lessons Kenya can learn from Ireland

Tell us more about this agreement and what farmers should look forward to

The agreement aims at increasing trade between Kenya and Ireland. We have expertise and experience on crop farming and fisheries and we want to avail these to farmers. We are targeting dairy, potato and fisheries sectors.

In potato, we have an agreement to provide high-yielding seeds, where we will bring in new planting materials that will later be distributed to farmers.

Currently, an average Kenyan farmer produces 4-6 tonnes of potatoes per hectare but the new seeds can produce over 40 tonnes.

The seeds are also disease-resistant and are better variety for making chips.

We are working with potato farmers in Nyeri, Nyandarua and the Rift Valley to help them access better seeds and improved storage. 

For livestock, we will bring in new animal genetics to help improve the dairy industry.

The Irish agricultural sector is among those booming in Europe. What did you do and what lessons can farmers and policy makers borrow from your experience?

We are a smaller country than Kenya and until recently, we were among the poorest in Europe. Our economy 50 years ago relied on commodity-based agriculture with very little value addition.

Today, we have a very well-developed agricultural sector that produces 10 times more than we can consume, employs over 160,000 farmers and nets in 80 billion Euros in exports.

We export to 165 markets globally and we are a recognised global leader in agro-food.

Other than the fact that we have a favourable climate which supports dairy farming, our government has linked policy with research and private sector institutions to facilitate the emergence of farming as a business.

Farmers are, therefore, trained and are encouraged to adopt business approach. There is also a strong focus on small to medium-sized enterprises for value addition.

In other words farmers have a guaranteed market, both domestic and abroad.

In Ireland, we have 1.4 million cows producing 6.4 billion litres a year, which is quite high compared to 4.2 million cows in Kenya offering 5.2 billion litres of milk every year.

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