How fertiliser imports fell 66 percent ahead of scandal


Farmers buy subsidised fertiliser at the National Cereals and Produce Board depot in Elburgon, Nakuru County on August 24, 2023. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Kenya slashed fertiliser imports by three-quarters ahead of this year’s main planting season which was marred by reports of supply of fake input, official numbers show, threatening to reverse the country’s gradually improving food security situation.

An estimated 143,569.5 tonnes of chemical fertiliser were shipped into the country in the first three months of the year, a drop of 66.27 percent compared with 425,675.20 tonnes in the corresponding period in 2023.

The data, collated by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, further shows expenditure on fertiliser imports fell 69.82 percent in the first quarter of the year to Sh9.69 billion from Sh32.10 billion in the corresponding period the year before.

This means a tonne of fertiliser cost traders an average of Sh67,488 to import, a 10.51 percent drop from an average of Sh75,411 a year earlier. 

Increased importation of the farming input last year has helped stabilise supply of staple maize, keeping prices fairly steady in most parts of the country. The fertiliser subsidy programme was top of President William Ruto’s agenda when he took power in September 2022 at a time the country was battling record-high maize prices.

This was largely due to a biting drought, said to be the worst in four decades, in 2022 and disruption in global supply chains that followed Russia’s war in Ukraine, pushing up the global prices of fertiliser to record levels.

The government cushion on prices helped cut the cost for a 50-kilogramme bag of subsidized fertiliser from highs of Sh6,500 to Sh3,500 initially before falling to current levels of Sh2,500.

“In order to support agricultural production, the Government rolled out a countrywide farmer registration and fertiliser subsidy programme that has made available 5.5 million bags to farmers across Kenya,” Treasury wrote in the 2024 Budget Policy Statement (BPS).

“The Government has also progressively reduced the cost of fertiliser from Sh6,500 to Sh2,500, increased maize acreage under production by an extra 200,000 acres, and enhanced maize production by an additional 18 million bags.”

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