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Economy

Scam ups fertiliser prices 21 pc

Workers offload sacks of fertiliser at the port
Workers offload sacks of fertiliser at the port of Mombasa. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The price of fertiliser has increased by 21.6 per cent following a shortage blamed on stringent vetting of imports and clearance delays at Mombasa port.

Retailers are selling a 50 kilogramme bag of Calcium Nitrate (CAN) at Sh2,800, up from Sh2,250, while wholesalers are buying the commodity at Sh2,250, up from Sh1,800.

The reduced flow of fertiliser to the market has been attributed to strict vetting after the nabbing of substandard fertiliser containing mercury, which led to the prosecution of Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) Managing Director Charles Ongwae and other officials.

The shortage has forced some farmers to cut back on production with flower firms warning of jobs cuts.

Farming accounts for a third of Kenya’s annual economic output and the high cost of fertilisers means farmers will avoid using the nutrients, hurting output.

Primarosa Flowers Managing Director Bobby Kamani said delayed release of fertiliser from the port to agro-shops risked derailing farm operations as many flower farms are running short of the manure.

“We maintain fertiliser stocks for up to three months but this is being depleted and no new supplies have been received. We might be forced to pay higher prices if normal supplies are not restored,” Mr Kamani said.

Horticulture products hinge their operations of fertiliser through a farming method known as hydroponic technology, which involves growing plants without soil, using mineral nutrient solutions in a water solvent.

“The situation is horrible as flower farms run hydroponic operations and might fold up soon if urgent measures are not taken to correct the problem,” said Clement Tulezi, CEO of Kenya Flower Council (KFC).

He said that about 70 flower firms had reported plans to shed jobs.

Kenya earned Sh82.2 billion from flowers last year, up from Sh70.8 billion the previous year, making it one of the top foreign exchange earners together with tea and tourism.

High input costs have turned some farmers away from export crops such as flowers, horticulture and coffee.

Mr Tulezi said discussions between KFC and senior government officials had yielded no fruit despite several agreements being reached.

“We agreed that the 35 per cent of good fertiliser be allowed in as well as consignments within the acceptable margin,” he said.

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