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Bad potato seed imports hit farmers ahead of the rainy season

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Bad potato seed imports hit farmers ahead of the rainy season

Infected potato tubers
Infected potato tubers. PHOTO | FILE 

Kenyan farmers are facing a shortage of certified potato seed following the rejection of 78 percent of the planting materials that had been imported last year.

The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) rejected 221 tonnes of potato seed out of the total 282 tonnes that had been shipped into the country for multiplication ahead of this year’s planting season.

The potato seeds were rejected after they were found to have been infected by a harmful bacterial disease.

Shortage of high quality seed could translate to lower production of potatoes, which is Kenya’s second most popular starch after maize.

“When imported seed are rejected, obviously this will impact on production and create a shortage. This trend can only be reversed if we increase our capacity in developing our own planting material,” said Dr Lusike Wasilwa, a senior scientist with Kenya Agriculture Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro).

The long-rain season is expected to start any time now, when the potato seed will be needed.

Kenya’s seed demand stands at 30,000 tonnes annually but the country only produces 6,700 tonnes, with most farmers recycling part of the harvests from the previous seasons to use as seed.

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The use of low-quality seed has been blamed for the potato shortage that the country occasionally faces.

Kenya produces about two million tonnes of potatoes annually even though it has the potential to yield up to eight million tonnes.

“The country has potential to produce between eight and ten million tonnes annually under ideal conditions,” says Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya Chief Executive Officer Hosea Machuki.

“We have the capacity to become the market leader in the region in potato production. This goal can be attained through increased innovation, mechanisation and large-scale production”.

Dr Wasilwa says the government needs to fund research to boost potato production in the country.

“The sector needs additional funding in research to come up with varieties that are high yielding and disease-resistant. We urge the government to increase allocation for research for the agricultural sector to at least two percent,” she said.

She argued that Kenya should stop imports of all potato seed and instead pump more money toward research to enable local production of seed and avert diseases and pests that come with importation.

The country imports about 400 tonnes annually that is multiplied at government institutions and distributed to farmers as seed.

Okisegere Ojepat, the Chief Executive Officer, Fresh Produce Consortium of Kenya, said the sector continues to face other challenges besides low production of seed.

These include high costs of inputs like fertilisers and lack of proper guidelines on standards.

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World Bank pushes G-20 to extend debt relief to 2021

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World Bank Group President David Malpass has urged the Group of 20 rich countries to extend the time frame of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative(DSSI) through the end of 2021, calling it one of the key factors in strengthening global recovery.

“I urge you to extend the time frame of the DSSI through the end of 2021 and commit to giving the initiative as broad a scope as possible,” said Malpass.

He made these remarks at last week’s virtual G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting.

The World Bank Chief said the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered the deepest global recession in decades and what may turn out to be one of the most unequal in terms of impact.

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People in developing countries are particularly hard hit by capital outflows, declines in remittances, the collapse of informal labor markets, and social safety nets that are much less robust than in the advanced economies.

For the poorest countries, poverty is rising rapidly, median incomes are falling and growth is deeply negative.

Debt burdens, already unsustainable for many countries, are rising to crisis levels.

“The situation in developing countries is increasingly desperate. Time is short. We need to take action quickly on debt suspension, debt reduction, debt resolution mechanisms and debt transparency,” said Malpass.

ALSO READ:Global Economy Plunges into Worst Recession – World Bank

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Kenya’s Central Bank Drafts New Laws to Regulate Non-Bank Digital Loans

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The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) will regulate interest rates charged on mobile loans by digital lending platforms if amendments on the Central bank of Kenya Act pass to law. The amendments will require digital lenders to seek approval from CBK before launching new products or changing interest rates on loans among other charges, just like commercial banks.

“The principal objective of this bill is to amend the Central bank of Kenya Act to regulate the conduct of providers of digital financial products and services,” reads a notice on the bill. “CBK will have an obligation of ensuring that there is fair and non-discriminatory marketplace access to credit.”

According to Business Daily, the legislation will also enable the Central Bank to monitor non-performing loans, capping the limit at not twice the amount of the defaulted loan while protecting consumers from predatory lending by digital loan platforms.

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Tighter Reins on Platforms for Mobile Loans

The legislation will boost efforts to protect customers, building upon a previous gazette notice that blocked lenders from blacklisting non-performing loans below Ksh 1000. The CBK also withdrew submissions of unregulated mobile loan platforms into Credit Reference Bureau. The withdrawal came after complaints of misuse over data in the Credit Information Sharing (CIS) System available for lenders.

Last year, Kenya had over 49 platforms providing mobile loans, taking advantage of regulation gaps to charge obscene rates as high as 150% a year. While most platforms allow borrowers to prepay within a month, creditors still pay the full amount plus interest.

Amendments in the CBK Act will help shield consumers from high-interest rates as well as offer transparency on terms of digital loans.

SEE ALSO: Central Bank Unveils Measures to Tame Unregulated Digital Lenders

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Scope Markets Kenya customers to have instant access to global financial markets

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NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 20 – Clients trading through the Scope Markets Kenya trading platform will get instant access to global financial markets and wider investment options. 

This follows the launch of a new Scope Markets app, available on both the Google PlayStore and IOS Apple Store.

The Scope Markets app offers clients over 500 investment opportunities across global financial markets.

The Scope Markets app has a brand new user interface that is very user friendly, following feedback from customers.

The application offers real-time quotes; newsfeeds; research facilities, and a chat feature which enables a customer to make direct contact with the Customer Service Team during trading days (Monday to Friday).

The platform also offers an enhanced client interface including catering for those who trade at night.

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The client will get instant access to several asset classes in the global financial markets including; Single Stocks CFDs (US, UK, EU) such as Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google, BP, Carrefour;  Indices (Nasdaq, FTSE UK), Metals (Gold, Silver); Currencies (60+ Pairs), Commodities (Oil, Natural Gas).

The launch is part of Scope Markets Kenya strategy of enriching the customer experience while offering clients access to global trading opportunities.

Scope Markets Kenya CEO, Kevin Ng’ang’a observed, “the Sope Markets app is very easy to use especially when executing trades. Customers are at the heart of everything we do. We designed the Scope Markets app with the customer experience in mind as we seek to respond to feedback from our customers.”

He added that enhancing the client experience builds upon the robust trading platform, Meta Trader 5, unveiled in 2019, enabling Scope Markets Kenya to broaden the asset classes available on the trading platform.

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