Russia pledges fertiliser support for Kenya


President Uhuru Kenyatta leads the Kenyan delegation in bilateral talks with the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industries led by its vice president George Petrov in Moscow. PSCU

Russia has pledged to assist Kenya in accessing fertiliser at an affordable cost, securing a major deal for President Uhuru Kenyatta who sought a partnership with Moscow on imports and a manufacturing plant.

The Russian deputy Prime Minister, Dmitry Kozak, said his government would ensure Kenya gets fertiliser directly from producers without going through middle men. The two leaders met on the sidelines of the IAAF World Championships.

Kenya’s fertiliser demand stands at 500,000 tonnes a year.

Agriculture Secretary Felix Koskei will visit Moscow in a week’s time to discuss the deal further, said a dispatch from the Presidential Strategic Communications Unit.

Russia is one of the world’s top exporters of fertiliser and is also reputed for its long experience in running manufacturing plants.

“In the short-term, I would like to encourage Russian manufacturers and exporters to supply the required high quality fertiliser to Kenya”, President Kenyatta said at meeting with officials of Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Moscow on Friday.

He, however, asked his host to buy more tea, coffee, vegetables and flowers from Kenya in exchange. “In addition, it would be mutually advantageous to partner with us in establishing a fertiliser plant in Kenya,” said Mr Kenyatta.

Kenya has been struggling to set up a fertiliser plant with a capacity to process at least 1.000 tonnes per day since the 1970s without much success. Last year, former president Mwai Kibaki upped the stakes when he gave his administration a target of up to December 2012 to identify a strategic investor.

Had the plan succeeded, a plant estimated to cost between Sh30 billion and Sh50 billion would have been up and running by 2015, saving billions of shillings spent in subsidising the input for farmers every year.

(READ: State seeks strategic investor for Sh38bn fertiliser plant)

With a recently passed public-private partnership law, Kenya has kicked off the campaigns afresh. On Friday, President Kenyatta maintained that attaining food security remained a top priority for his administration.

To achieve this, the government will irrigate large tracks of land and make fertiliser accessible and affordable, Mr Kenyatta told Russian investors.

“I am happy to note that the Russian business community has recognised Kenya’s potential as one of the most promising investment destinations in Africa, and wishes to deepen the existing trade and economic relations with us,” he said.

Apart from the national demand, a plant set up in Kenya will have access to the five-member East African Community market, which has also been struggling in vain to set up a joint regional plant.

A study conducted last year by consultants hired by the Agriculture department projected that fertiliser usage would increase from 500,000 to 739,662 tonnes a year.

Eventually, the uptake of the input will grow steadily to 1.26 million tonnes per year by 2030. Apart from agriculture, Mr Kenyatta also sought to woo Russian investors to put investment capital on the Lamu Port, tourism and energy.

The Friday meeting brought together more than 40 top Russian companies including manufacturers of fertiliser Akron and Uralchim.

Georgy Petrov, vice president of the Chamber of Commerce of the Russian Federation said trade between Kenya and Russia, with an annual turn-over of about Sh17 billion ($200 million), was currently way below optimal potential. He cited energy, infrastructure development and tourism as some of the sectors that Russian investors were keen to explore.

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