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Coronavirus strikes farmers, fishermen in Kenya

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AA 20 APR 2020

The Kenyan economy is in a crisis. The coronavirus pandemic is affecting everyone regardless of their age, ethnicity, social status or profession.

Fishers along the Kenyan coast, who export seafood to Europe and China, say their trade has almost come to a halt since the past few weeks. Only 20% of their catch is being sold as they lack a market now.

“The closure of the Chinese export market has really affected us fishermen,” Ahmed Abdi, a fisherman from Malindi told Anadolu Agency. “There are local sales but for Kenyans fish is fish… they don’t care about the type… they would pay the same for salmon as they would for a rare tuna.”

He said sales from the local market could not meet his living expenses.

“We cannot depend on the local market… our main market was China, all our prices are set by the Chinese market,” he said. “Kenyans can’t afford expensive lobsters but China used to buy them in tons.”

Abdi said that the dusk to dawn curfew imposed to curb the spread of the virus has also affected them.

“The water temperature drops at night and from my 23-year experience, I can tell you it is the best time to fish,” he said.

Like the fishers, even farmers are bearing the brunt of the outbreak.

Producers in the East African country say they are already late for the planting season, and have warned that the country might face starvation in the coming months.

“We have a triple tragedy: one we have not planted so we face hunger if the rainy planting season ends, two there is the coronavirus…three we have a locust invasion, this is like hell for us farmers, it is like the end of times,” George Wetaba, a farmer in western Kenya told Anadolu Agency.

Wetaba said Kenya will suffer from food shortage if the government did not step in to assist them.

He pointed out that it is around April that most farmers plant locally-consumed foods but the entree supply chain has been impacted.

“From the seed vendors, people who supply fertilizers, those who deal in pesticides, and the ones who operate tractors… they have all been locked down… we have nothing to do or plant, we want the government help as soon as possible,” Wetaba said.

Ambrose Ngetich, an officer from the Food and Agriculture organization in Laikipia, Kenya, warned that the second wave of locusts might impede COVID-19 fighting measures put in place.

He said the curfew was affecting their efforts against the swarms.

Meanwhile, last week Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta announced $47 million for a newly-formed emergency fund, bringing the total amount sent to all 47 counties in the country to $94 million.Kenya has 270 confirmed COVID-19 cases so far, with 14 deaths, and 67 recovery, according to figures compiled by the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.

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