Farmers are staring at an expensive planting season this March after the price of diesel was increased by Sh5 a litre, coming at a time when the cost of fertiliser and seeds are on an upward trajectory.
The Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority increased the price of diesel to Sh135 in Eldoret and Kitale just as farmers are preparing to start ploughing this season’s crop.
In the North Rift, which is Kenya’s grain basket, the cost of ploughing one acre has already increased to Sh3,000 from Sh2,300 in the last planting season.
“We have had no alternative but to increase the cost of ploughing in line with this week’s review of diesel prices,” said Gibson Kipkemboi who owns a fleet of tractors in Kitale.
Mr Kipkemboi said the price of other activities such as harrowing, reploughing and planting will also go up to reflect the high cost of diesel. Farmers normally do the first ploughing then the second one before they plant for optimum yields from their farms.
Kenya Framer Association director Kipkorir Menjo said the move will hurt food production.
“High fuel will increase the cost of production, which will see farmers cut down on acreage because they cannot manage the high cost involved,” said Mr Menjo.
Mr Menjo said large scale farmers have already scaled down on acreage, a move that will harm the country’s food security. He said the government will use more money next year to import food to meet the local demand if it cannot address the current cost of production.
The price of planting fertiliser has so far hit Sh6,000 for a 50-kg bag from a low of Sh4,000 last year, coming as a major blow to farmers.
The high cost of fertiliser is likely to compromise maize production this year adding pressure on food security, given that Kenya itself is a maize deficit country and relies on cross-border imports to meet the annual demand.
The low yields in the country have always been blamed on poor usage of fertiliser as some of the growers opt to grow their maize without the manure due to the high cost.