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Agriculture Bills – Lobbyists cry foul

14 January 2013, 11:57 Brenda Wangwe

Underneath the raging elections cacophony, are Kenya’s agriculture stakeholders pointing out anomalies in the ALFFA+4 agriculture bills (Agriculture, Livestock and Food Authority Bill 2012 – a.k.a. ALFFA; Fisheries Bill 2012, Livestock Bill 2012; Crops Bill 2012; and the Agricultural Research Bill 2012).

If passed, ALFFA+4 will have 10 ministries under a single agriculture ministry, 131 laws cinched into four harmonised laws and 70 parastatals bunched into three. Agriculture Minister, Dr. Sally Kosgei, says most of the 131 pieces of legislations are outdated, no longer responsive to the needs of the dynamic sector and are a major impediment to economic growth. She says, associated with the impediments the legislations cause, are the absence of strong rules to foster competition in the sector; the existence of many parastatals that play multiple, overlapping and at times contradictory functions; and a restrictive regulatory environment that hinders or discourages private sector investment.

Dr. Elizabeth Ouko, the senior vice-chair of Kenya Veterinary Association (KVA), counters the minister saying the existing laws on agriculture and livestock are well equipped to yield great returns. ‘They only need to be developed to accommodate the growing technology and to remove red-tape,’ she states. She would as well like a clear breakdown of which law falls short, where and how.

Daniel Karugu, an international standards expert, says the laws have been amended over time. ‘None of them has a colonial date,’ he quips. He would have gone the route of putting experts in the same room with the apparently outdated laws, have them audit the legislation and state why they needed adjustments, first. Even so, he thinks the auditors’ verdict would have been more on the amending rather than repealing of the laws.

Other reasons agriculture stakeholders are vouching for the halting of the bills are that:
They breach international trade agreements – which can result in trade disputes, don’t comply with a number of clauses in the constitution e.g. Freedom of Association, and that they are likely to hinder the progress made on the requirements of the World Trade Organization (WTO) standards. Members of the Agriculture Industry Network (AIN) say the bills compromise efficiency by putting resources back into the public sector and that they have not addressed pertinent issues to the letter. For example, ‘the mandate of the counties in sugarcane growing is not clearly spelt out – which goes against the spirit of devolution,’ says Ezra Okoth, a sugar cane farmer and the chairperson of the Kenya Sugarcane Growers Union.

The other concern is that the ALFFA+4 bills have mostly been discussed when parliament was having insufficient quorum – compromising the quality the decisions arrived at.

So far, the ALFFA Bill has gone through a number of amendments, including removal of Livestock. It is therefore now adopted by Parliament as the AFFA Bill. The Crops Bill and the Agricultural Research Bill have as well been adopted by Parliament.

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