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Stop thinking small: Ruto slams Rift MPs opposing calls to diversify from maize farming

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Deputy President William Ruto has hit out at North Rift politicians who have opposed calls to diversify to other types of farming other than maize.

“I heard some people say the other day that they are not interested in diversification because you cannot put avocados in a store or you cannot feed avocados on initiates,” he said.

“People are producing for markets to export while others are thinking of how to produce to go and put in a store. That is how low some people think in our country.”

Ruto spoke on Friday during the Nakuru International Investment Summit that brought together local and international investors to showcase opportunities.

The DP was reacting to comments by a section of MPs in the Rift Valley who opposed his idea that the region should substitute maize farming with crops including avocado and macadamia.

On November 18, Alfred Keter of Nandi Hills, Joshua Kuttuny (Cherengany) and Silas Tiren (Moiben) alleged Ruto was encouraging farmers to drop maize production to open the market for him to import maize from Congo.

In a scathing attack on the DP, the rebel Jubilee legislators alleged the DP has bought a 500-acre piece of land in Congo and that he was positioning himself as the principal maize supplier by discouraging the region from maize farming.

Read: MPs: Ruto wants to bring Congo maize

“You can’t be telling us to plant avocados, plant macadamia but you are not telling us what happened to maize,” Keter said.

The MPs did not, however, back their allegations with any evidence.

Their statement was in reaction to government’s stand that a bag of 90kg of maize would be bought at Sh2,300 next season.

They claimed Ruto was behind the prices which they termed too low.

“We want to tell the DP that we know the problems and cartels frustrating farmers are directly linked to him and his office and that is why we want all leaders probed,” Keter said.

But Ruto on Friday said the government has signed many export treaties and it is time the region stopped overdependence on subsistence maize production.

“The President was in China for the China Expo and the primary thing he went to do is ensure we open the Chinese market to Kenyan exports,” Ruto said.

He said the answer to achieving double-digit growth of the GDP and manufacturing growth of up to 15 per cent lies in the country’s export strategy.

The Dp said the government is keen on increasing potato production five-fold and expanding rice production by 300 per cent.

Ruto said the government is focused on diversification to achieve the Big Four Agenda.

He said the MPs need to be encouraged to see the bigger picture and the economic potential that diversified farming will bring the region and the country at large.

He said Kenya can now access the Chinese export market through exports.

“We now have signed the phytosanitary agreement that will now make it possible for Kenyans to export macadamia, avocados, horticulture, tea, coffee and pyrethrum to the Chinese market,” Ruto said.

He urged counties to exploit the rising export market space by repositioning their production strategies to feed the export market.

“That will be the turning point for our economic fortunes as a country,” Ruto said.

The DP represented President Uhuru Kenyatta at the event where local and international investors attended to showcase opportunities.

Related: Rift MPs now want Ruto probed over maize crisis

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