The Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) has failed to import subsidised fertiliser for farmers due to effects of Covid-19 pandemic, forcing growers to buy manure at market rate.
Speaking at Iriani Tea factory in Nyeri, KTDA chairman Peter Kanyago said the agency was experiencing some delays by the fertiliser manufacturers in Russia.
Farmers last year bought a 50-kilogramme bag of fertiliser a Sh1,774, compared to the market cost of Sh2,800, a 40 percent discount.
“Farmers will not receive fertiliser this year because we are experiencing some delays from the manufacturers who have been affected by the pandemic,” he said.
Mr Kanyago said the tea agency was looking for locally blended fertiliser for distribution to its more than 560,000 farmers.
To enjoy the economies of scale and offer cheap fertiliser to the farmers, KTDA imports the commodity directly from the manufacturers in Europe — an arrangement that has existed for five years.
Last year, the State agency shipped in 1.91 million bags of fertiliser worth Sh3.8 billion.
The ship ferrying the NPK 26:5:5 fertiliser was supposed to dock within the next three months for distribution to farmers before the onset of the short rains.
However, according to KTDA head for procurement and logistics Brown Kanampiu, due to the disruptions and uncertainties in normal business operations and processes, manufacturers of the commodity mainly in Russia had expressed difficulties in producing fertiliser.
“Suppliers and manufacturers invited to submit their tender expressed difficulties due to the effects of Covid-19 such as lockdown, flights restrictions, scaled-down production and challenges in freight and logistics,” he said in a memo.
Mr Kanampiu further said the manufacturers were not sure about when they would produce and deliver the fertiliser, adding that the turn of events had negatively affected fertiliser procurement and distribution plan besides the price.
“With such disruptions in the global supply chain and logistics and the uncertainty on when the situation will normalise, it was prudent to put off the tender for fertiliser procurement until further notice as we monitor the situation in the global market,” he said.
Mr Kanampiu said KTDA would procure fertiliser once the effects of Covid-19 pandemic reduce and the market situation returns to normal.
To acquire the fertiliser, the KTDA starts the procurement process in November of the preceding year by gauging demand from interested tea farmers.
Application of fertiliser begins at the onset of short rains and tea farmers purchase it at subsidised prices.