The Agriculture Act (Chapter 318)
The main purpose of the Agriculture Act was to provide a legal framework in support of a stable agricultural sector through developing agricultural land “in accordance with the accepted practices of good land management and crop husbandry”. A significant point of focus was increasing food production and securing national food security through a variety of regulatory measures such as the administration of Guaranteed Minimum Returns. The Act also set out rules and regulations on issues such as land ownership; promotion of efficient land use and proper land husbandry even as it created various organs and bodies to oversee a range of regulatory functions. Significantly, the Act empowered the Minister to exercise administrative and regulatory authority over the sector through these bodies created under the Act. These functions ranged from fixing prices for scheduled crops (section 7), determination of Guaranteed Minimum Returns (Section 8) and market intervention through the Price Equalization Fund amongst others.
It is, therefore, significant to note that the regulatory function vested significantly in both the Minister and the various organs and bodies acting independently, but often, in concert. But in exceptional circumstances, the distinct role played by various bodies was recognized and the power of the Minister in respect of their core functions was limited. Examples include:
- Management of maize, maize products, wheat and flour under the National Cereals and Produce Board (Cap 338)
- Slaughter stock under the Kenya Meat Commission Act (Cap 363)
In the main, the Agriculture Act established an extensive framework for regulation managed through the Minister (Ministry-level) but also through a variety of State-supported agencies with specialist functions such as the:
- Agricultural Settlement Fund (Section 168)
- Agricultural Finance Corporation (Cap 323)
Some of the key strong points of the Agriculture Act can be summarized as follows:
- Establishing structures through various boards to regulate and oversee a wide range of functions that would support the development of the sector
- Empowering the Minister to intervene, through various administrative measures, to provide relief to farmers such as through the GMRs, Equalization Fund etc
- Establishing clear mechanisms on legal redress and ventilation of rights through the Agricultural Appeals Tribunal
The Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Authority Act
The Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Authority Act is the successor to the repealed Agriculture Act. In reviewing the Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Authority Act, it is important to analyze whether the core strengths under the previous Act have been retained.
The overriding philosophy and orientation of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Authority Act is one of creating structures to strengthen regulation through various bodies. The mandate is narrower and more specific compared to the broad canvass of the repealed statute and the bias is towards strengthening governance challenges in the agricultural sector.
In view of the devolved system and structure of government, it is important to identify and determine how the functions previously undertaken by provincial and district agricultural boards will now discharged.
The Act creates an Authority which is due to take over the functions of institutions previously established under the Agriculture Act. In the case of agricultural institutions that performed a commercial function, these will be registered to operate under the Companies Act. The other 10 institutions, specified under the rules, will fall under the Authority and their roles and functions will be rationalized.
There is no clarity on how the diverse institutions will be managed under one Authority and whether this presents a risk of de-prioritizing their roles and functions. It is also uncertain whether the Act is likely to create an unwieldy or inefficient Authority depending on how the rationalization process is carried out.
Source: Kenya Private Sector Alliance