Pepper farmers in Mwingi have felt the true impact of Covid-19 pandemic. Farmers practicing pepper farming meander irrigation along Thunguthu River have decried huge losses after ban on international flights.
Following COVID-19 pandemic strike in Kenya four months ago, both domestic and international flights were banned in Kenya in a bid to curb spread of the viral disease.
As a result of the ban and cessation of movement in and out of counties with high disease risks for three months, the Mwingi farmers who had been practicing pepper were left with no choice other than to change their line of farming.
Jacob Mbiti, a farmer who majored on farming of the Bird’s Eye chilli pepper said the product which is highly consumed in parts of Netherlands, Germany and United Kingdom had no market challenges as brokers came for the pepper at their farms.
Mbiti said the abroad consumers prefer the chilli in its green state and not when it is over ripe and red in color.
However, since corona virus knocked doors in Kenya and almost everything came to a standstill, he was forced to uproot some of the pepper plantations to pave way for other products which he can sell locally.
He also said the product is now a waste for it is over ripe and, in that state, it has no market.
Jacob who had planted two acres of pepper and has since cleared the piece of land for horticultural farming urged Kitui county government to step in and help small scale farmers as they are currently struggling due to adverse effects of COVID-19.
Farmers urged the county government to offer support to them as they aspire to embark on serious farming and do more products such as passion fruits, tomatoes on large scale among other products.
Susan Makasi, another pepper farmer along Thunguthu River decried incurred losses after their products had to overripe at the shamba for lack of market following COVID-19 pandemic.
Susan said they practice pepper farming as a group and so far, 18 farmers have ventured into the practice along the river who also incurred losses as market proved challenging.
Kitui county Chief Officer in charge of Agriculture and livestock development, James Songolo who had visited the farmers said the government has embarked on meander irrigation type of farming for produce of high value agricultural crops.
He said the county government has been supporting farmers with seedlings and pesticides.
He also stated that due to the losses incurred by the pepper farmers, the government will look into a way of compensating them.
“I urge the farmers not to give up doing the pepper farming for I am sure since pepper is not a seasonal crop, I believe by the time they will be ready, the market would have fully opened up,” advised the CO.