Kenya

Kenya minister urges sacrifice after rain

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By Manoah Esipisu

NAIROBI, Feb 5 (Reuters) - Kenyan AgricultureMinister Musalia Mudavadi said on Thursday thecountry will have to make sacrifices and possibly paymore taxes because of crop damage caused by threemonths of unseasonable rain.

Mudavadi told Reuters Television in an interviewthat the heavy rains brought by the El Nino weatherphenomenon during the normally dry period ofNovember to January had caused excessive damageto food and cash crops.

The government had no resources to financeemergency relief supplies, he said.

"The bulk of this money will have to come throughthe sacrifice of Kenyans themselves," Mudavadi said.Kenya was going through a difficult economic spell,he added, and the government would be unable tofree funds needed for imports. Asked whetherincreased taxes to meet the finance shortfall was apossibility, Mudavadi said it was up to the Treasuryto make that decision, but "naturally, one cannotrule out the option of having to look at other revenue(sources)".

Mudavadi added that waiving taxes to allow importsof relief maize supplies also remained an optionunder discussion.

"What one needs to bear in mind is that it may forceus, as a country, to perhaps re-adjust some of ourexpenditure programmes in order to be able to dealwith this crisis."Mudavadi ruled out the possibility of food riots,saying that Kenya was keen to get food to its people.Even when Kenya was hit by famine in 1984 therewere no riots, he said."I don't think that we could get to the level of foodriots. As a government, we can work out somecontingency plans that will make sure that there isenough food in the country. I would not go to theextreme and talk about food riots," he said.The Famine Early Warnings System (FEWS), aproject of the U.S. Agency for InternationalDevelopment, says Kenya's national maizeproduction will be around 2.24 million tonnes infiscal 1997/98, showing a deficit or importrequirement of 634,131 tonnes.

Production of tea, Kenya's leading foreign exchangeearner, fell 14 percent in 1997 to 220.72 millionkilogrammes from 257.16 million in 1996, accordingto brokerage house Africa Tea Brokers.Coffee production will drop to 65,000 tonnes in1998/99 from 68,000 in 1996/97 and productiondeclines have been noted in sugar, wheat, beans,flowers and vegetables, according to the agricultureministry.

Mudavadi said that a recent dry spell after heavyrains was good for the tea crop and a bumper harvestwas expected, but there was no immediate word onthe performance of other crops.Mudavadi appealed to the international communityto come to Kenya's aid, saying that Kenya'sneighbours Uganda and Somalia faced similarproblems. A co-ordinated intervention would help liftthe east African countries from the quagmire."We are hoping that the private sector can beencouraged to come in and play a meaningful role indealing with the crisis. We are also not losing sight ofthe fact that we would wish that the internationalcommunity can come to our aid," Mudavadi said.

He said he wanted to see direct bilateral assistance orrelief support from non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Mudavadi said floods had directly affected some300,000 families, washed away livestock andencouraged diseases."If one was to think about the impact that it mayhave, then it will affect more people...just frompeople having to start afresh because their basiclivelihood has been devastated."Mudavadi saw the drop in production of crops,specifically coffee, as bad for the economy: "Clearly,it means that we are going to have a big shortfall inforeign exchange earnings."Rains also washed away bridges and damaged roads,making difficult the movement of crops to markets.Prices for crops are expected to rise in line with this, farm experts say.
Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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