Traders triple fertiliser imports under President Ruto subsidy programme


Fertilizer imports. MPs are seeking to have the G-to-G procurement mode adopted in the purchase of fertiliser. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The government’s fertiliser subsidy programme is turning into a cash minting machine for traders with a nose for quick cash after importing a record 12.6 million bags of the crucial farm input in the first six months of 2023.

This was over 11.4 million 50-kilogramme bags the country brought in the entire last year, a report from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) that tracks balance of payment shows.

The Quarterly Balance of Payments for the second quarter showed Kenya imported 203,843.40 tonnes of chemical fertilisers in the period between April to June. In the first quarter, importers brought into the country 425,675.30 tonnes of fertilsers, adding up to 629,518.70 tonnes, or 12.6 million 50-kilogramme bags, in the first half of the year.

The quantity of fertiliser imported in the first six months of this year was more than three times the 3.76 million bags of the input that were shipped into the country in the first half of last year.

Chemical fertilisers imported in the six months were valued at Sh44.8 billion, a rise from Sh16.2 billion in the same period last year. This points to the lucrativeness of President William Ruto’s subsidy programme.

Under the plan, well-connected traders have bagged multibillion shilling tenders to supply cheaper fertiliser to the Kenya National and Trade Corporation (KNTC), a State corporation.

For most of last year, imports of chemical fertilisers were low as importers avoided buying the input partly due to the high global prices and a drought that saw farmers reduce acreage under cultivation.

Chemical fertilisers—including ammonium sulphate, ammonium phosphate, ammonium nitrate, urea and ammonium chloride—are used to counter shortage of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in the soil thus helping boost productivity.

Predictably, imports of rice and cooking oil, for which some traders have been picked to supply to the KNTC with the aim of bringing down the cost of living, also rose sharply, according to the report.

“Expenditure on imported rice rose more than two-fold from Sh9.4 billion in second quarter of 2022 to Sh27 billion in the second quarter of 2023 while that of imported chemical fertilisers went up from Sh7.9 billion in the second quarter of 2022 to Sh12.7 billion,” said KNBS.

In the period, Kenya also received cheap fertiliser from Russia, with Moscow, currently at war with Ukraine, shipping 34,000 tonnes.

A big chunk of this critical farm input has found its way to farmers through the Kenya National Trading Company which is overseeing President Ruto’s subsidy programme aimed at providing the cheaper planting material.

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