Kenyan farmers count losses as eateries close amid COVID-19

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NYANDARUA, Kenya, Sept. 16 (Xinhua) — David Ruhiu, a fish farmer from the central Kenyan county of Nyandarua, has become a victim of market disruptions occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said turmoil in the hospitality industry, where the majority of his clients are domiciled, has led to cancellation of orders for fish reared in his lush green farm.

“I am yet to receive any orders,” Ruhiu told Xinhua during a recent interview at his farm.

His farm used to supply fish to luxury hotels in Nairobi and in Central and Rift Valley regions, major destinations for foreign tourists, whose visits were curtailed when the government stopped international flights on March 25 to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

Though international flights resumed on Aug. 1, only a handful of tourists have flown into the country.

Hotels are now allowed to open but only after effecting all the measures the government imposed, such as a distance of 1.5 meters between tables and testing of all staff members.

These conditions, hoteliers complain, are too expensive to meet in the prevailing harsh economic times.

They warned that some would wrap up their business altogether due to lack of funds to follow the stringent public health guidelines.

For Ruhiu, who has been in the fish business for a decade, these disruptions and uncertainties in the supply chain are a costly affair.

He said that he was troubled as the fish was wasting away the feed that would have been consumed by another lot for the December harvest.

Ruhiu has always harvested fish twice a year. In the first half of this year, he was expecting 1.5 tonnes from each of his 11 fish ponds.

“They are still chilling in water until I find a market,” he said.

“They are just consuming feed without bringing me any returns. I already have a debt of 37,000 shillings (350 U.S. dollars) for the feed and am not sure how I will manage them in the next two months should I not sell all of them,” Ruhiu said.

Peter Mwangi, chairperson of a 60-member farmers’ group, Njoro Great Fruits Friends Association, said 85 percent of the produce has now been turned into fodder.

“Farmers made bumper harvest and their markets were no more,” he said.

“They are feeding the livestock with the cabbages and tomatoes. Even if they were to sell them, they will not make any profit,” Mwangi said. “It is a total loss and we are really worried.”

“We don’t know how we will recover from the losses,” he said.

Poultry farmers have resorted to hawking their chickens on the roadside at a throw-away price, Mwangi said.

Instead of the equivalent of 9 dollars, a retail price for the hotels, the farmers are now trading the chickens for 5 dollars.

“With that 5 dollars, a farmer has made negative profit. It cannot even cover the cost of feeds,” Mwangi said.

“We are afraid that by the time business normalizes, farmers will have little capital or no money at all as they are not making profits to reinvest,” he said.

Hotels are offering little business. Even with the government’s allowance to operate, many are yet to get back on their feet as they also depend on alcohol consumption, currently banned in entertainment joints, for a boost in business.

Ernest Muibu, chairman of Nakuru County Budget Hotels Association, said revellers who thronged hotels and restaurants in the county during weekends gave their businesses a lifeline.

Now with the prevailing ban on congregation of large crowds, their businesses are near collapsing, he said.

“We are operating at 10 percent our usual capacity. We no longer have people coming into town to enjoy themselves,” Muibu said. “What are they coming to do if they cannot drink alcohol?”

“Let the government lift all the restrictions so we can operate normally. In fact, sorghum farmers are worried about what will become of them since the uptake of alcohol has slowed down with closure of bars,” he said. Enditem

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