Economy

Maize farmers face fertiliser crisis

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Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri said the State had challenges procuring fertiliser, casting doubts on the availability of the commodity with just a month to the beginning of the season.
  • Mr Kiunjuri did not disclose details about the procurement troubles, but historically firms bidding for the lucrative import of the subsidised fertiliser have fought court battles over tendering.

Maize farmers face a fertiliser crisis ahead of the planting season after the government said it could not promise a timely delivery of the subsidised farm input.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri said the State had challenges procuring fertiliser, casting doubts on the availability of the commodity with just a month to the beginning of the season.

Mr Kiunjuri did not disclose details about the procurement troubles, but historically firms bidding for the lucrative import of the subsidised fertiliser have fought court battles over tendering.

The Treasury allocated Sh4 billion for subsidised fertiliser in the current year ending June, and has spent more than Sh20 billion over the past five years on the subsidy programme.

“We should be prepared for anything,” said Mr Kiunjuri while officiating the validation of a maize taskforce report last week.

If the subsidised fertiliser fails to arrive on time, farmers will be forced to buy the product from shops that charge nearly double the government price.

For instance, a 50 kilo bag of planting fertiliser retailed at Sh1,500 at the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) last year with the same quantity going for over Sh3,000 in the Agrovet shops.

Farming accounts for a third of Kenya’s annual economic output, but the high cost of fertiliser means farmers rely on subsidies or avoid using them, which hurts output.

The NCPB is currently holding close to 420,000 bags of assorted fertiliser, with most of it being for top-dressing.

Officials at the board said they were waiting for the product to supply once it is procured by the government.

“What we have currently is just a fraction of what farmers need in a given season. We are still waiting for a word from the government but we are more than ready to start the exercise once we get the supplies,” said NCPB.

Distribution of fertiliser during planting season has been a perennial challenge for farmers over years.

This has contributed to poor performance of maize crop as it delays the start of the planting season.

The maize taskforce is expected to come up with a comprehensive report on how to address some of the challenges.

The team collected views from farmers and other industry stakeholders.

Mr Kiunjuri said the report will be made public this week.

The taskforce will thereafter be required to develop an implementation work-plan and aimed at improving the sector once the report is adopted.