Money constraints stunt subsidised fertiliser uptake

Workers arrange bags of fertilizer.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

A lack of money is the leading cause for the low uptake of the government’s subsidised fertiliser, according to research by global agro-research firm Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

In the study, 26 percent of respondents said they had not benefited from the cheaper farm input because they did not have the required cash.

This means that many farmers who are aware of the fertiliser subsidy programme and have registered for it cannot benefit because of a lack of money. Through the subsidy, registered farmers pay Sh2,500 for a 50-kilogram bag of fertiliser, which is a sharp drop from market prices as high as Sh6,500.

The study also revealed that many farmers, especially smallholders, lack information about availability of the cheaper fertiliser which has hindered them from benefiting from the programme.

For instance, 33.9 percent of the respondents said they were not aware of the existence of the State-backed initiative. It shows that some 12.5 percent of respondents also said that they did not receive notifications on where and when to pick up the fertiliser.

“Addressing barriers to participation is crucial for maximising the programme’s impact,” said CGIAR.

A further 11 percent cited delayed delivery of the fertiliser or late notification about where and when to get the fertiliser.

The report was presented on Thursday at a stakeholder engagement forum ahead of the Financing Agriculture Sustainably (FINAS) 2024 Conference that will be held in Nairobi next week.

The event was attended by stakeholders from the Ministry of Agriculture, the International Food Policy Research Institute, the German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ), Rootooba, and Tegemeo Institute among others. The fertiliser subsidy has been in place in Kenya for decades.

Successive governments have subsidised the input for periods of time whenever prices of the commodity skyrocket to give relief to farmers.

The programme is implemented through the National Cereals and Produce Board which distributes the commodity to farmers across the country.

The subsidy has, however, not been without controversy amid accusations that well-connected individuals who buy in bulk were benefiting more than the subsistence farmers who register for the supplies.

Fertiliser plays a major role in increasing food production.

About 45 percent of fertiliser sold in Kenya is used to grow maize, which is the country’s main food crop.

Further, 16 percent is used to grow tea, which is Kenya’s top cash crop, followed by sugarcane (13 percent), beans (seven percent), wheat (five percent) and flowers (three percent).

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Note: The results are not exact but very close to the actual.