Africa’s agricultural industry is faced with four typical challenges in relation to its economic viability:
low levels of production
high sales and marketing cost
little knowledge on commercial farming
pressing subsistence demands
This makes most farmers in Africa vulnerable to commodity brokers, who control the link between farmers and the market – both primary, and secondary – to which African farm produce is delivered. As a result, much of Africa’s farm produce is subjected to low prices at source and yields huge margins for transporters brokers, marketers, and others in the secondary supply chain, both in local and international markets.
This is an area that cooperative farming in both small-scale and commercial farming can give the African agricultural sector a major boost.
Livestock farming in Kenya would seem to be performing substantially better, relative to crop farming. From an estimated 14 million beef cattle, the country produces 320,000 tonnes of beef annually, worth some USD 895 million, which accounts for half of the production within the East African Community, in addition to over 84,000 tonnes of mutton and goat meat, worth over USD 235 million.
Reliance on low quality, traditional dairy breeds for milk production is, however, a major setback in Africa as a whole, with some cattle producing as little as 200 liters of milk annually compared to the 10,000 litres per year that is easily attained in Europe, Australia and other more developed agricultural economies.
Despite the relatively low production, Kenya produces over 600,000 liters of milk daily compared to 450,000 in Uganda, and 150,000 in Tanzania, only 20% of which is processed, leading to huge post-harvest losses in the dairy sector.
Commercial farming in Kenya, however, has cut itself a niche in the world market, in which Kenya is a leading producer of tea, coffee, horticulture and pyrethrum.
Kenyan tea production, for example, is ranked third in the world after China and India, while over 10% of the world's floral produce comes from Kenya.
In the year 2012, earnings from horticulture in Kenya amounted to Ksh. 276 billion (USD 3.3B), and it is projected that earnings from floral exports alone could reach Ksh. 97.1B (USD 1.09B) in the year 2013.
Demand for pyrethrum has also steadily increased with the growing demand for pyrethrin, used in the production of organic pesticides considered more environment friendly compared to synthetic chemical alternatives.
Well grounded strategic initiatives in agriculture addressing the matter of access to markets especially, remain the key to unclocking the enormous potential within the agricultural industry.